On any given Sunday, or for that matter, any other day of the week, some very good baseball players compete not only for the love of the game, but also for their future in the game in almost obscurity on St. Vincent High School’s artificial turf.
The players are members of the Golden Gate Collegiate Baseball League, a confederation of eight Northern California teams composed of college players, all with hopes of not only college success, but also baseball life beyond school.
The Top Speed Speedos, run by St. Vincent High School coach Stan Switala, are not only the local team, but also the best in the league with three straight championships.
Although the players love the game, summer can be a grind. They follow their college seasons of 60-plus games by playing another 30 or so games in two months in the Golden Gate Collegiate Baseball League.
They extend their season in hopes of improving their game for next spring’s college season and to attract the attention of scouts in hopes of receiving a contract with an affiliated (with a Major League team) or independent professional organization.
On the Top Speed roster are players from as near as College of Marin to as far away as Hunstville, Alabama. Their home towns range from Fairfield to Nacogdoches, Texas. There is even a pitcher from Venezuela. They will play 44 games in 55 days, with the top three teams advancing to the post-season playoffs.
Switala said there is no problem landing players. “Their college coaches send them to us,” he said. “They want them to improve and stay fresh for next season.”
Playing in a summer league like the Golden Gate is a good way to get noticed by professional teams. “There are a lot of guys looking to play at the next level,” Switala noted. “Scouts are always dropping by to watch the games.”
Since 2009, 50 Top Speed players have signed professional baseball contracts or been drafted.
Switala is a former scout in the New York Mets organization, and his connections help with both college coaches who trust him with their players for the summer and the scouts who count him to provide them with accurate information on players.
While in the area, the players are put up in apartments in Rohnert Park. They pay $695 each for the apartments and the full summer season of baseball. “We also have a couple of fundraisers and a couple of sponsors that help,” the coach said. “Basically they are playing for the love of the game.”
Since being formed in 2009, Top Speed has won 405 games and lost 94. In the six years the team has been associated with a collegiate summer league, it has won four league championships and played in the championship game every summer.