If you can’t beat them, join them. After Baseball Western Australia State All-Star Pitcher Greg Van Sickler held Perth scoreless and struck out five in his four innings of perfection in the Heat’s 3-2 loss to the BWA All-Stars in a Spring Training exhibition game on October 20th, the three-time All-American Van Sickler made quite an impression on the two-time reigning Australian Baseball League champions. So much in fact that Perth wasted little time in calling him up from the Carine Cats, member of the 12-team WA State League, to join the Heat.
From Virginia to Australia by way of Belgium, Perth Heat pitcher Greg Van Sickler has ventured on the road less traveled in pursuit of his dream in playing baseball professionally. After a stellar season playing for Belgium’s Premier League Namur Angels of the Ligue Francophone Belge de Baseball et Softball, the Virginia native is now on an Aussie baseball odyssey in Perth.Greg Van Sickler, the first player in the USA South Conference history to be named both the Player and Pitcher of the Year in the same season, was 11-1 on the mound for 2011 Shenandoah University Hornets while batting .390 with seven homers and 46 RBI from the three hole in the batting order to earn first-team accolades at the utility position. The Division III All-American led the team to the NCAA Division III College World Series twice and was named 2010 and 2011 Virginia state Player of the Year by the Virginia State Sports Information Directors Association (VaSID). Van Sickler was a four-time VaSID All-State selection who earned All-America honors during his final three seasons. In both 2010 and 2011, he was a first team All-America honoree by both D3baseball.com and the American Baseball Coaches Association.
The six-foot-two 23-year-old tipped off his talent early on while playing baseball at Winchester, Virginia’s James Wood High School, where he was named team captain and MVP twice as well as 2007 Northwestern District Player of the Year. Over five years later, Greg Van Sickler finds himself nearly 12,000 miles away from home playing for the defending ABL champs Perth Heat. In his 6.2 innings of bullpen relief, the
Top 40 American has been dominant with seven strikeouts and a 1.35 ERA.
Padres add heat to mix with reliever Miles Mikolas, the legendary Lizard King of the San Diego bullpen
Venice Beach’s Lizard King, an alter ego of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, imitated a Native American shaman. Since shamans identified strongly with an animal deity, Morrison chose the lizard because of its ability to reinvent itself by constantly shedding its skin and personified his deity by only wearing leather pants. Native cultures shaman guide followers through sacred ceremonies involving the ingestion of peyote to lead worshippers on a spiritual awakening of higher consciousness in the same way Morrison led his loyal audiences through a journey so that they may never think the same way again. Opting to skip the hallucinogens and make believers of those weak at heart in the Peoria Javelinas bullpen during the 2011 Arizona Fall League, new San Diego Padre relief pitcher Miles Mikolas turned Lizard King chose to square up on clubhouse dues by accepting the $250 dare bet wagered by fellow players and ingesting a Mountain Dew marinated cold-blooded reptile.
“I settled down and made some really good pitches there toward the end. One bad pitch. Right after Stanton hit the home run I was like, ‘Well, you know, there it is. Welcome to the major leagues.’” Mikolas made his encore appearance pitching in the Padres’ 6-3 loss to the Marlins on Sunday, when he came in relief during the eighth inning and recorded the final out after issuing a walk. Prior to pitching in the Bigs, Mikolas was 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA in Double-A San Antonio. Padre manager Bud Black commented, “This spring, he threw the ball well.
I think that continued on there in San Antonio. Of all the guys that we looked at, he was the guy that our Minor League people said, ‘He’s the guy.’” The San Diego skipper has liked what he has seen so far from the rookie Mikolas. “That’s a big curveball,” Black said. “His challenge will be to get that in the strike zone. It has good rotation. You can combine that with a low-90s, mid-90s fastball. It’s a nice variation. It’s a nice difference of velocity. But the key is getting the breaking pitch in for a strike, because he’s got enough fastball. There’s no doubt about that.” A few weeks ago, Aussie pitcher Hayden Beard–Mikolas’ roommate at Double-A San Antonio–predicted weeks ago that Miles would be the first member of the Mission pitching staff to break into the Bigs. ‘The Big Dog’ Beard said, “I’m stoked for Miles. It couldn’t happen to a better bloke!” After Jupiter High School baseball, Mikolas played through his junior year at Nova Southeastern University (NSU)–where he ranked fourth all-time with 167 career strikeouts and fifth with 32 games started–before being the seventh round pick by San Diego in the 2009 draft. That year he was one of four NSU players drafted, three of whom have now appeared on a Major League 40-man roster–including Mikolas, J.D. Martinez (Astros) and Mike Fiers (Brewers). After converting from a starter to a reliever, Mikolas quickly moved up the Padres system to the Single-A affilate Fort Wayne TinCaps, where he would become a 2010 Midwest League All-Star after striking out 78 batters in 60 appearances.
The Southern Florida native last season split time between the Single-A Advanced Lake Elsinore Storm and the Double-A San Antonio Missions. He went a combined 4-0 with 21 saves and a 1.38 earned run average. Mikolas was dominant on the mound, striking out 69 in 72 innings of relief. Rumor has it that an unnamed Lake Elsinore Storm pitcher was betting everyone he could hit triple digits but could only hit 99 on the radar gun that year. However, the Lizard King of the bullpen has since touched 100 mph with a spike in velocity. The fearless pitcher and part-time shaman will change our way of thinking of the Padres’ winning ways by keeping hitters uneasy and off balance with his unrelentless heat and signature Mikolas Hammer.
Evan Cook, a lefty blessed with a twist of deception, was put to the test early and threw under pressure nearly every inning. With bases loaded and two outs in the first inning, the slender Cook caught San Clemente batter Jesus Saldana off-balance when the stocky Triton catcher tapped a comebacker to the mound. Cook fielded the ball cleanly and had plenty of time to throw Saldana out at first to end the inning. Once again in the second with men in scoring position and two out, the crafty left-hander got San Clemente leadoff hitter Trevor Sealy to fly out to center to spoil another Triton scoring threat. San Clemente pitcher Braden Riddle, as he has done most season against opponents, was out to compete and keep Tesoro batters at bay.
San Clemente’s defensive prowess was apparent throughout the game. In the bottom of the second with men on first and second with one out, Triton Head Coach David Gellatly went out to the mound to meet with Riddle and the infield for a roundtable chat. Gellatly recalled, “When I went out to the mound in the bottom of the second, I was making sure our defense knew what we were trying to accomplish with our bunt coverage. Knowing it was probably going to be a one run game, I was making sure that we were not just going to take the out at first base. Instead, we were attempting to get the lead runner at
third, which we successfully accomplished. That was a huge play.”
Gellatly commented, “On the play where Shane threw out the Tesoro runner, again it was a huge play for us. With two outs, Coach Brail had to force our defense to make the play, and we were successful.” Despite being dominant on the hill, San Clemente pitcher Braden Riddle lost control of the game in the bottom of the third when Titan Brett Halasz was hit by a pitch. With a free pass issued to first, Riddle was vulnerable to Tesoro senior Kevin Co, who drilled a drive in the gap between left and center field deep enough for Halasz to score from first and give Tesoro a 1-0 lead. Trying to stretch out a stand up RBI double into a triple and challenge the arm of center fielder Dan Caresio,
Kevin Co fell victim to the promising junior’s on-the-money throw to third.
San Clemente Coach Gellatly was proud of his outstanding juniors’ performances and said, “Outfielders Shane Elias-Calles and Dan Caresio are both very good defensive players with strong arms. They are developing into team leaders both on and off-the-field. I believe they will make huge contributions to our team’s success next year. I really like the idea of Dan and Shane at the top of the line-up next year.” San Clemente looked to take possession of the game in the top of the sixth with men on first and second with no out. After it appeared that Titan pitcher Evan Cook was appearing to get weary, Tesoro Head Coach Rick Brail went out to the mound and had a meeting with his ace starter. Brail said, “I wanted to make sure he was feeling good and we discussed how to pitch to the next hitter. He was very confident.” San Clemente hitter Dillon Fetty put down a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt to advance the runners into scoring position. The pressure was on the Triton’s best hitter, Chad Foster (.389 batting average), to put his team on top. Foster made good contact with a fastball, and the sound off his bat spelled trouble for Tesoro. However, the line drive shot off his bat was right at shortstop Brett Halasz, who caught the ball for out number two. Thinking quickly on his feet and reacting like a pro, Halasz threw the ball to third baseman Riley Greenlee, who tagged out Triton baserunner Julian Perry off the bag for a double play to end San Clemente’s scoring hopes. Tesoro was jubilant after the 1-0 victory over San Clemente. Tesoro Coach Brail explained, “We felt good. San Clemente is a good team, and anytime you can win two out three games against a league opponent….it feels good.” Coach Brail rounded up the team for a post-game discussion after the win and told his players, “Enjoy the moment….and take pride in the fact that all your hard work is paying off. But our season is not over and we’re back to work next week.”
San Clemente Coach Gellatly praised his starting pitcher and said, “Braden Riddle is a four-year letterman who did show great competitiveness and leadership against Tesoro. He has the ability to carry the team on his shoulders from the pitchers’ mound. Unfortunately, we couldn’t score any runs for him.” Despite the loss, Titon skipper Gellatly remained upbeat and commented, “As the season winds down, we have some tough ballgames ahead of us. We still have work to do to qualify for the playoffs. However, if Riddle and Danny Atkinson can continue pitching the way both of them did last week, we should have a great chance of getting in. If we do happen to qualify, you never know what can happen in a single elimination tournament.” With an impressive 1.23 ERA, San Clemente junior standout pitcher Danny Atkinson held Top 5 state ranked South Coast League favorite El Toro to just one run yesterday as the Tritons upset the Chargers 6-1. Improving the team’s overall record to 14-11. San Clemente’s chances of making the playoffs will improve with wins in their three remaining regular season games against El Toro and Capistrano Valley. Tesoro, who are still undefeated at home in 2012, are currently leading the league with an overall 18-8-1 record. San Clemente and Tesoro are currently playing good baseball, and their first-class programs are second to none under the leadership of Coaches Gellatly and Brail. Should both teams qualify for CIF Southern Section playoff berths, they should not be discounted as they will be not give up easily. We wish the squads continued success now and in the future.
Former San Clemente High School baseball star and veteran Tesoro Manager Rick Brail said, “Erik was in the first four-year class at Tesoro High School. He and his family have not only been a part of a baseball program from day one but also a big part of the school’s establishment. Retiring his jersey was a great thing to do because he has and always will be a part of our Tesoro family. It also felt great to recognize a player who was one of hardest workers and always put the team and school before himself. Our school, the community, and baseball program could not be more proud of Erik’s accomplishments on the field and the man he has become out in society.” Having earned three letters in both varsity baseball and football, Hamren perfected his game with every year of experience. He tipped off his athleticism and talent early on in his Tesoro Titan baseball career when he was named to the 2003 North Orange Country Classic All-Tournament Team. The Coto de Caza native followed it up in 2004 with a roster spot on the Southern Cal Cup II – Orange County All-Stars. Hamren finished the 2005 season with three home runs and a .452 batting average, which earned him the Pacific Coast League Co-MVP with Tesoro teammate Nick Nelson. Erik Hamren was a rising star and was heavily recruited to play college ball. He decided to stay in California and attend University of the Pacific. Coach Brail added, “Erik always had a ton of talent on the baseball field, but it wasn’t until his senior year that he finally put it all together. He fully committed himself to baseball, (his studies) in the classroom, and physical fitness. After that the game came easy for him, and he was named MVP of our league his senior year as an outfielder and part-time pitcher. His transition to a full-time pitcher happened in college like many players. He was struggling at the plate and decided to convert to a full-time pitcher. It was seamless because he could throw 90 mph plus. It was just a matter of gaining confidence and experience.” After only nine at-bats at Pacific in his first year, Hamren returned home to pitch for Saddleback College and lend a helping hand to Coach Brail’s elite Tesoro Titans baseball team. A converted pitcher who had been picked up in the 37th round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Chicago Cubs after the team liked what it saw during a tryout, Hamren didn’t sign his first professional contract until after making 15 pitching appearances in the Northwoods League for the Mankato MoonDogs during the summer of 2008. With one win, six saves and a
2.04 ERA in 17 2/3 innings of work under his belt, he then opted to sign with the Cubs. Hamren made three stops in the Chicago Cubs farm system in 2008 and 2009. Hamren had less than two full seasons of pitching experience when he was released by the Cubbies after the 2009 season with Single-A Midwest League Peoria, where he had a 5.98 ERA in 38 games. Determined not to give up on his dream of making it in the Bigs, Erik chose to play in the Independent League to develop his craft in 2010. He pitched in the Indy Northern League in 2010 and put together an 0-2 record with a 3.39 ERA in 44 games playing for the Kansas City T-Bones and Joliet JackHammers. Joliet acquired Hamren in late August for the stretch run in a trade with the Kansas City T-Bones. The right-hander was dominant in seven games for the 2010 JackHammers by posting a 0.84 ERA in 10.2 innings of work, striking out 16 and holding opponents to a .262 batting average. Hamren appeared to have finally felt comfortable pitching and was ready for redemption.
Major League veteran pitcher Tom House was critical in Erik’s transformation and revamping his approach prior to pitching at a MLB tryout camp in November 2010. After seeing the renaissance man in action, the San Diego Padres signed Erik to a minor league contract. Hamren believes it was a full season of independent baseball and working with former Major Leaguer Tom House that helped him reach MLB. Erik said, “Indy ball was the best thing that could have happened to me. It put things in perspective. You have it, and then you lose it. But I got innings, and I got to work. It’s kind of hard to grasp what has happened.” Hamren admitted that he struggled with his command during the first half of the 2010 season, but a ‘House call’ visit with the pro at the All-Star break made all the difference. “House synched me up,” Hamren said. “He kept me really focused and made me really confident. The first half of the season, there were still command issues. Strikes would come and go. But I worked with him and got a little confidence off that.”Coach Brail commented, “Erik was blessed with a ton of baseball ability. He had all five of the major baseball tools. It was just a matter of maturity and trusting himself on the field. Once he learned to relax and focus on the things he had control over, the game got easier for him. I’m a Erik Hamren believer and fan. He has overcome adversity his whole career and with his tremendous work ethic. I know nobody will out work him, and he is only going to get better.” Coach Brail knows that it will be an uphill battle for Hamren to return back to the Big Leagues from his current post at San Diego Padres Double-A affiliate San Antonio Missions. It’s the same place where he was when he received a Big League call-up at 1:30 in the morning on July 31, 2011 after the Padres traded relief pitcher Mike Adams to the Texas Rangers. Hamren made his splash into Major League Baseball at PETCO Park the next day on August 1st against Southern California National League West rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The six-foot-one, 195-pound righty pitched a scoreless
ninth inning in San Diego’s 6-2 loss but also ended his
MLB debut memorably by striking out Dodger speedster
Dee Gordon. The Orange County homegrown hero deserved the opportunity after being named 2011 Texas League
Mid-Season All-Star and compiling a stellar 5-0 record with
a 0.98 ERA in 48 games with the Lake Elsinore Storm and San Antonio Missions. During his shortened 2011 minor league campaign in 65 2/3 innings of work, Hamren was relentless. He surrendered a mere 46 hits, while walking
14 and striking out 69. The 25-year-old posted a 4.38 ERA
in 12 1/3 MLB innings last season with the Padres pitching middle relief. “He’s a great story,” said Jason McLeod, the Padres’ vice president and assistant general manager. “He
has a low-90s boring fastball with a swing-and-miss slider.” Hamren had high hopes that a successful run at 2012 Padres Spring Training would warrant a slot in the San Diego opening day bullpen. Unfortunately, he was designated for assignment on April 5th by the Padres.
To the delight of Southern California Friar faithful in keeping Hamren a Padre, Hamren cleared waivers and was assigned to Double-A San Antonio. So far in his 13 innings pitched out of the Mission bullpen (0-1, 2.08 ERA with one save and four holds), Erik has surrendered only 6 hits while striking out 19 and holding opponents to a .154 batting average. With continued success in the minor leagues, it is just a matter of time for the South Orange County pitcher to return to PETCO Park.
Hamren’s journey to Major League Baseball was relatively short, especially considering that he
was pitching in the Independent League in 2010. He possesses what it takes to become a solid contributer to the Padres bullpen and is itching to remain a staple on the San Diego roster. Should the Padres use closer Huston Street as a half-season rental AKA trade bait before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, then Hamren will be right on schedule for his annual pilgrimage to PETCO. However, one would expect that at the very latest Erik will rejoin the Padres when active rosters increase from 25 to 40 on September 1st. In the meantime, the trek from Mission San Juan Capistrano to the San Antonio Missions will have to suffice. Just as the swallows return every year to this legendary South Orange County landmark, fireman Erik Hamren will faithfully make his miraculous comeback to MLB in San Diego.
high school three-sport letterman “Paul Bunyan”,
and later Tampa Bay Ray pitcher David Price coined him “a man-child” during MLB batting practice, it was just a matter of time before Southern California native Mike Stanton would be compared to Harmon Killebrew, Dave Winfield, Mark McGuire, and Bo Jackson. Playing football, basketball and baseball while attending Notre Dame Prep in Sherman Oaks, Stanton was tempted by USC with a football scholarship, but instead was snagged to play professional baseball as a Marlin in the 2nd
round of the 2007 draft. Upon hearing that
Mike Stanton chose baseball, Hall of Famer
Dave Winfield considered the pivotal decision a “potential game changer” and cited that “baseball needed something like this…” Prior to the start of the 2011 season, Terry Francona was asked to identify the MLB’s most improved player and New York Times national baseball writer Tyler Kepner was asked to forecast a MVP candidate; both had Mike Stanton at the top of their lists. Despite being plagued by injuries in 2011, Stanton did not disappoint with 34 home runs (5th in NL), a .537 slugging percentage (8th in NL), a .893 OPS (12th in NL), 70 BB (13th
in NL), and 87 RBI (18th in NL).
While most fans were mesmerized at the rate of speed of Aroldis Chapman’s fastball, I was focused on the MLB-best 107.4 MPH velocity of home
runs off Stanton’s bat. Like Stanton growing up in Los Angeles, we both sat in the right field bleachers to get
a close-up look at our favorite players: his being Dodger Raul Mondesi and mine being visiting Pirate Roberto Clemente. Born to an African-American/Puerto Rican mother and an Irish father, Stanton’s parents loved the Italian name “Giancarlo”. On November 8, 1989, Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton was put on this planet to become baseball’s knight in shining armor. Sharing Italian first names and a common love for the City of Angels, I am proud to have witnessed first-hand the rapid transformation of a San Fernando Valley teenager who has become the modern day Sunshine State’s Paul Bunyan. Destined for South Beach super-stardom, Mike Stanton will soon be sharing sunscreen with local celebs Shakira, Anna Kournikova and Gloria Estefan. Whether it’s lather up or batter up in Miami, the future MLB home run king is here to play!
Pericolosi instructs EU, Aussie & American players and coaches how to play fun, competitive baseball
Before coaching at Pomona-Pitzer, Pericolosi was the assistant coach for the Cape Cod Baseball League Brewster Whitecaps and mentored future Major Leaguers Mike Aviles, Chris Dickerson, Tony Gwynn Jr., Taylor Tankersley and Sean White.
He has been one of the most sought after baseball experts in Europe since 2000. Pericolosi coached the Swedish National Baseball Team for two years and spent three summers in Sweden as a MLB International envoy coach. He also spent two additional summers in Sweden as a player/coach for the Leksand Lumberjacks and two years in Belgium as a player/coach for the Brussels Kangaroos. During the summer of 2010, Pericolosi served as a coaching consultant with the San Martino Junior Baseball Club in Italy.
He has since become a magnet in the European Baseball Coaches Association exchange program, an initiative to develop European coaches’ insights in every aspect of the game through collaborative mentoring by experienced American coaches like Pericolosi at some of the best collegiate baseball programs including Pomona-Pitzer. From running team practices to covering coaching mechanics, strategy and philosophy, participants have the opportunity to closely work with host coaches to fine tune their craft. A 2000 graduate of Pomona College–where he played baseball–and a former coach for the Georgia State Panthers, Australian Baseball League CEO Peter Wermuth commented, “Our Pomona-Pitzer head coach, Frank Pericolosi, has a strong international orientation and has taken this initiative (EBCA exchange program). Frank has coached down here in Australia a few times, and we have set up an ABL intern program. But more importantly, he has coached in Europe for many years, and I am excited that he has made Pomona-Pitzer one of the pioneers in the European Baseball Coaches Association exchange program.”
A sabbatical leave from Pomona College in the fall of 2009 would prove to be a blessing for those Aussie athletes who were fortunate enough to be taken under Pericolosi’s wing.
He worked his magic as an assistant coach for Baseball Victoria Geelong Baycats in Australia, where he strengthened the Baycats’ coaching structures and methodology.
Competing at the highest level in the Victorian State League, the Geelong Baycat coach assisted with all the teams in the club–from children to the most competitive team. Pericolosi also provided instruction at a MLB youth clinic and in addition to serving as an assistant coach with the Victorian U-14 State Team. “Kids play baseball for right reason,” Pericolosi said. “Because it’s fun. For me, the most gratifying thing is to see a player improve and know you were part of that process. Coaches and teachers had a very powerful effect on my development as a person. I would like one of my players to say that about me…”
Pericolosi is so popular that prospective players are making significant life-changing decisions based on his reputation of running a first-class collegiate baseball program to accompany the quality education afforded by the prestigious Claremont University Consortium. Kevin Brice, a senior from Salpointe Catholic High School in Tuscon, Arizona, chose to be part of the coach’s Pomona-Pitzer legacy of excellence recently and echoed the sentiment of mixing the best of sound mind and body in Claremont. The future Sagehen (2016) outfielder explained,
“I chose Pomona because of its great academic program and baseball program. It had a welcoming atmosphere when I visited, and it’s hard to turn down playing baseball in Southern California. I really like Coach (Frank) Pericolosi. He seems laid back, honest, and he’s built up a great baseball program. I’m excited to be able to play for him next spring.” Pericolosi is just as fired up as the young slugger in his line-up based on his past baseball statistics. In 30 games last season, Brice hit for a .527 batting average–including 26 RBI, 12 doubles, five triples–and scored 53 runs. Coach Perilcolosi hopes to add him to his long list of success stories of graduates who have gone on to play professional baseball. Serving as an American Baseball Coaches Association Executive, the 36-year-old coach has had a prolific effect on the quality of the players he has mentored and actively engaged in launching professional baseball and business careers.
Coach Pericolsi said, “It’s great for recruiting to have all these guys playing professionally. We can talk to a kid who is a borderline Division I athlete and say that you’ll still have the chance to get drafted or play overseas and get a great education in the process. It’s also great for all those guys to continue playing. They’ll end up in the business world or other things when they’re done, but in the meantime, they get to play a few more years of baseball.” He speaks from first-hand experience as the Connecticut native attended Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford, where here was named All-State in baseball and honorable mention All-State in football during his senior year. A 1997 graduate of Massachusetts’ Williams College–where he excelled in both collegiate football and baseball–Pericolosi was named All-Conference and All-Region in baseball. In addition, he played two summers for the New England Collegiate Baseball League Middletown Giants. Pericolosi was selected as an All-Star and named to the NECBL All-League team in 1995. He later played in Europe.
Whether player or head coach, Frank Pericolsi has always given his best effort and in return he expects that same level of commitment from everyone around him. The bottom line is that Pericolsi knows how to get the most out of his players. Conversely, it’s no secret that players worldwide have trusted that they can depend on their “living legend” coach to give them their best shot of success on and off the field while having fun in the process.