Wildcats debut at James Field today

Auburn?s college wooden bat baseball club to play 45 games over the next two-plus months
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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They?ve come from Canada, Venezuela, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and all over the Golden State. But for the next two months the 27 college baseball players signed by Wildcats owner Ken Valencia are Auburnites. The Wildcats will make their debut at James Field today at 3 p.m. after dropping their first two games of the season Friday and Saturday. The Wildcats compete in the Pacific West Baseball League, a wooden bat league designed for college talent, from the junior college ranks to Division I. Auburn?s players gathered last month for a four-day mini-camp and some were still on their way to town late last week, just in time for the season opener ? a 1-0 loss at Marysville Friday night. Shannon Fernandez manages the Wildcats and he liked what he saw in early workouts. ?They look really good,? said Fernandez, who coaches baseball at Cosumnes Oaks High in Elk Grove. ?We?ve got guys from all over the U.S. and Canada. The level of play is very good. I like the group we?ve got.? Today?s home opener will have a distinct local flavor as Del Oro High graduate Michael Proiette takes the mound for the first time. Proiette recently finished off his freshman year at Glendale Community College, where he helped the Vaqueros win the Southern California Regional. Proiette pitched as a reliever at Glendale, but he?s excited about the opportunity to start for the Wildcats. ?The competition is going to be very good,? said Proiette, who graduated from Del Oro in 2010. ?It?s definitely a step up from (junior) college.? Loomis native Michael Pople recently finished up his sophomore season at Arizona Christian University. Pople will add depth to the pitching staff as a hard-throwing right hander. Many of the Wildcat players are staying with host families in Auburn and Foresthill for the two-month season, which includes 45 games during the regular season. For players like Chad Hodges and Shane Zimmer, from Alberta, Canada, Valencia said it?s a culture shock, but it?s a positive experience. ?We?ve got a diverse group of guys,? said Valencia, who moved the team (formerly known as the Mudcats) from Morgan Hill last year. ?We hope they can come together and mesh as a team.? A pair of University of Akron players ? Joey Havrilak and Darius Washington ? should be dangerous at the plate along with Granite Bay product Lydell Moseby. Fernandez said the entire roster was working hard and making a good impression early on in practice. ?They all know what they need to do to improve,? Fernandez said. ?The goal is to try and get better and have a good time doing it.?