Credit: Kyle Calzia | Mustang News

The NCAA granted athletes an extra year of eligibility to any player whose season was affected by the pandemic in March.

This means that all returners from last year’s Cal Poly Baseball team will have an extra year to play for the Mustangs, including redshirt junior infielder Tate Samuelson. Samuelson will return this year after starting all 16 games for the Mustangs at first base last season.

“I see this as another year to get better,” Samuelson said. “I think this is going to be a really good year for my development.”

There are 23 Mustang players returning from the team last year, who seemed to be picking up their play just as the season was suspended and later canceled. Of those 23 players, 10 of them have three years of experience playing for Cal Poly.

Redshirt senior catcher Myles Emmerson, the only fifth-year on the roster, will return after hitting .317 and playing great defense behind the plate in last year’s condensed season.

“The freshmen and the younger guys have a bunch of guys to look up to,” Emmerson said. “The more experience we have, the more we can share and help those young guys.”

When a team has as many upperclassmen and experienced players as Cal Poly Baseball does this year, it is their responsibility to mentor the incoming freshman and get them acclimated to the program, Samuelson said, that that’s what the returners are doing.

“The older guys are reiterating our program’s culture to the younger guys,” Samuelson said. “We can teach the young guys how to do things, how to go about school and a bunch of things that require time in this program.”

Emmerson said this year’s team seems to be coming together nicely, even with the pandemic limiting the amount of interaction between players compared to his other years in the program.

“We’ve glued together a lot quicker than we have in years past,” Emmerson said. “Having those older players and guys who are buying into the culture really helps.”

Although the 5-11 record last season doesn’t look great on paper, the team last year had impressive wins over highly ranked Vanderbilt University and Michigan and were playing very good baseball before the shutdown. 

Emmerson said he believes that last year’s team would have found success if the season were played out and is looking forward to a seamless transition into this upcoming year.

“We had a lot to prove last year and we were definitely heading in the right direction,” Emmerson said. “I think we’ve picked up right where we left off. The culture is great and everyone has bought into the same goal of winning a national championship.”

Samuelson shares the belief that this year’s team can help finish what was started earlier in the year, saying that the team is “in for something pretty special this year.”

There are many regulations and restrictions to follow in order for a baseball season to occur as safely as possible in Spring 2021. From holding smaller group practices to enforcing the use of masks during team practice, the squad is taking the necessary measures to ensure the baseball season can begin on time.

“We’ve still been able to practice somewhat normally,” Emmerson said. “The only difference has been the masks, being spread out and being forced to practice in smaller groups rather than as a whole team.”

The schedule for the upcoming season remains uncertain, as it is yet to be decided whether a full slate of games will be played, or if the NCAA will limit games to conference opponents only. However, Samuelson said he and the team aren’t worried about the logistics of this year’s schedule.

“We just want to go out there and play and win, regardless of who we play or where we play,” Samuelson said.

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