One Last Ride

Dylan Anderman, Sports Editor

Men’s Baseball seniors reflect on their final season   


The 11 graduating “super seniors” on the men’s baseball team are busy cherishing their last season at California State University, East Bay after Covid-induced lockdowns and subsequent delays. The adversity that these 23 to 25-year-old players have overcome in their athletic and academic journeys has finally brought them to this triumphant moment – their senior season, one last ride.

A motley crew of players from far and wide, these men are united under a common dream: to play college baseball and, if fortune strikes, make it beyond professionally. Embarking on their last year at CSUEB, the graduating players are committed to making the most of their numbered days on the hill. 

“This final season at East Bay means a lot to me as I want to see my hometown school succeed. I want to help create a winning culture at East Bay,” shared James Colyer, Pioneer pitcher and Hayward native.

While the Pioneers were just shy of meeting California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) tournament qualifications last season, the team is brimming with hope and ambition. “Our expectations every year are to win the conference and make it beyond that,” stated catcher Cole Anderson. 

Recent team rankings show that the seniors’ aspirations are possible. The CCAA preseason coaches’ poll has the Pioneers in the sixth seed — a seed up from last season’s results, in which the Pioneers placed seventh. Between the team’s ascension in rank at the beginning of the 2023 season and returning seniors hellbent on finishing strong, CSUEB Men’s Baseball is experiencing a newfound spark for success. 

“We are a really close group… We understand what this last year means.” second baseman Manny Garcia stated. Each player knows the reality that’s ahead; They will do whatever it takes to succeed this season. “I want to do whatever I can to help the team win,” shared shortstop Sammy Esparza.  

Ethan Brodsky, a CSUEB student since 2018 and the most tenured player on the team, shared his aspiration of making the playoffs, confident that the seniors will provide the team with the knowledge and experience to help the Pioneers climb. “After finishing one spot out of the playoffs last year, we know what needs to be done to take that extra step,” Brodsky commented.

Though the upcoming 2023 conference will be no walk in the park for East Bay, the Pioneers are adamant about their success. “This season and this team already have a different feeling to it… we put in work behind the scenes, at practice, and in the weight room. [The team’s effort] doesn’t go unnoticed,” said pitcher Derrick Flowers.

Known for being the recurrent underdog, the senior Pioneers have embraced their reputation and forged a special, family-like bond with one another. Not only do they have each other’s back, but each player recognizes the grind and struggle of another, pushing each other to be better every single day. 

“This team is always overlooked and counted out. I think that has brought us closer together and it has made us want [to win] more than ever before,” added pitcher Anthony Perez. 

Nevertheless, the feeling of a journey coming to an end is never fun. “This final season is important to me because it’s the last time I will throw on my spikes to play when it matters. [I am] representing my school, my name, and my coaches,” reflected third baseman Austin Alvarez. For each senior on the team, playing well is more than just winning; it is about living up to the tireless efforts of coaches and fellow teammates. 

While the “super seniors” have to contend with their age as the dawn of their college baseball career approaches, their legacy will continue as they lead the next generation of players by example. “I am proud of myself for making it this far. I think a lot of people in my position would have given up by now…I stuck with it and gave it everything I had – I can hang my hat on that with pride,” expressed the weathered outfielder Connor McWard, a 2015 high school graduate and the oldest Pioneer on the team.

Apart from their personal trials and tribulations, the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted their college careers, leaving players uncertain when they would get the next opportunity to play once again. Though the team would return, Covid-19 presented its own set of unique obstacles – such as forcing players to wear rubber gloves and masks to practice. 

Covid-19 was especially testing for players with longer commutes, as the limited number of practices and the absence of in-person instruction dissuaded many from coming to campus. Center fielder Essex “EJ” Brown Jr. was among those inconvenienced most by pandemic conditions, stating:  “I live in Sacramento, so driving to the practices wasn’t ideal. I had to train back at home and just wait.” 

Aside from Covid-19 difficulties, many players have experienced devastating injuries that would alter their college careers. First baseman and designated hitter Cole Coffey was one such unfortunate case. Coffey severely injured his hip right after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, requiring him to undergo surgery and forcing him onto the bench for a year to recover. “[After the] surgery I wasn’t completely sure I was even going to come back. I talked to my family, friends, the Lord, and my teammates, [after which] I knew I must continue. I knew I needed one last ride with these guys,” stated Coffey.

Following the unprecedented circumstances, these seniors are giving it their last shot. The 2023 season is officially underway and the excitement, fire, and confidence are at an all-time high. With league play starting in a couple of weeks, the challenge of getting to the CCAA tournament will soon be upon the Pioneers, however, the seniors and their team are ready for their one last ride.