Ever heard of the San Luis Obispo Blues? If you have, you’ve probably seen the colorful game-time billboards on Broad and Laurel streets, or heard the announcer’s narrative echoing from SLO Stadium at Sinsheimer Park or even sat through nine innings with a tri-tip sandwich.
The Blues are a California Collegiate League team. College and incoming college players are recruited from around the nation to spend a summer in San Luis Obispo playing baseball.
“Our coach from Portland told me I was playing here,” said Kyle Haskin, a 19-year-old infielder from the University of Portland. “I was excited to come play in California with good weather and girls.”
Summer games attract good crowds to SLO Stadium, especially on weekends. The stadium is intimately set up. Chairs form a close crescent with the field preceded by a sloped lawn where kids roll down a hill. Each player has a theme song played over loudspeakers before an at-bat. It’s a veritable baseball fantasy for players like Haskin who have “had a bat and ball in my hand since I would walk.”
Fans are a huge part of the Blues’ season. They cover the spectrum in age, with kids and adults alike vying for photos when the Blues’ mascot, “Belle the Blue Bull” comes in to the stands. Cal Poly theater alumnus Farley Elliott said that the atmosphere is relaxed, happy and, at times, can be a little raucous.
“You talk a little trash to the other team, you fill up on bad food, and you enjoy the less expensive things in life,” Elliott said.
Missouri catcher Dan Pietroburgo, 22, said he has enjoyed the experience so far.
“I workout in the mornings, head to the park for batting practice in the afternoon and then play games at night…it’s great,” Pietroburgo said.
Cal Poly business junior and Blues pitcher Mark DeVincenzi said he was recruited after the Cal Poly pitching coach sent him to talk to the Blues head coach. The Napa native said he has made lasting friendships while playing on the Blues.
“That’s what summer baseball is all about – meet new guys from different areas and hang out.” DeVincenzi said.
Another Cal Poly up-and-coming is incoming communications freshman Phil Ortez. The crowd chants Ortez’ name when he approaches the plate for an at-bat. Ortez said he is looking forward to attending Cal Poly and is “most excited about working with Coach Lee and getting to know the guys.”
Both Haskin, Ortez lives in a new house on Ella Street with other Blues players.
Some teammates live with host families who in turn are awarded free season tickets.
Arizona State pitcher Dustin Brader, 21, is living with a teammate in a host program.
“The parents are amazing people,” Brader said.
Hosting is encouraged because it promotes community support. Head coach Chal Fanning would like to see more college students participating in the host program next summer, possibly with incentive such as free barbecue or monetary supplements.
Fanning, a Cal Poly alumnus believes that the Blues provide a good venue for players to get better.
“My ultimate goal (in baseball) is just to keep playing as long as it’s fun,” DeVincenzi said.