MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: SANTA BARBARA’S STAR IS ON THE RISE
Sometimes perspective can come from the most obvious of places.
On Wednesday afternoon, former UCSB baseball coach and longtime university instructor, Al Ferrer, posted this on Facebook:
“UCSB IS THE ONLY UNIVERSITY TO HAVE 2 ALL STAR MVPS, MICHAEL YOUNG 2006 and SHANE BIEBER 2019. NOTE: STEVE GARVEY WON THE AWARD TWICE BUT IS one PLAYER (MICHIGAN STATE). As Casey Stengel would state, “You could look it up!”
You’ll have to forgive the all-caps message, as the Santa Barbara baseball community at-large is a bit excited.
For the first time in Santa Barbara history, three players with distinct local ties participated in the Mid-Summer Classic, with former UCSB star Shane Bieber and ex-Dos Pueblos High standout James McCann starring for the American League, while former Santa Barbara Forester Jeff McNeil suited up for the National League.
“It was so exciting for Santa Barbara baseball in general,” Foresters manager Bill Pintard said. “I’ve been around Santa Barbara for a long time, and this is as good as it has ever been.”
Bieber stole the show, winning the game’s MVP honors by striking out the side, including getting Braves’ star Ronald Acuna Jr. looking to end the top of the fifth.
On just three days rest, Bieber was still hitting 95 mph with his fastball, and the world got a look at his nasty breaking pitches.
“Shane is easy to root for,” UCSB coach Andrew Checketts said. “He is so humble, his ego was so low. Hard not to root for those types.”
Checketts also pointed to Bieber’s continued affection for Santa Barbara, something that can be seen by simply looking at his Twitter profile, where he still lists Santa Barbara as his hometown.
And having two All-Star MVPs as a program is not something lost on Checketts.
“You better believe that we are passing that along to the recruits that are looking at UCSB,” Checketts said. “Shane wasn’t heavily recruited, it shows what the program can do for those that maybe don’t have the spotlight right out of high school, but what we can do to help develop them.”
UCSB had 10 players drafted in the 2018 MLB Draft, and has been neck-and-neck with UCLA as the top two programs on the West Coast for drafted players in recent years.
“UCSB having success has really helped grow interest in the game,” Pintard said. “Plus, the success that we have as the Foresters, both with our team and with our camps. You look at a guy like Jeff McNeil, he was in our camps when he was 6. Having this type of success for our bigger programs helps grow younger players.”
Pintard also remembers when McCann would catch bullpens for the Foresters while he was in high school. He never played for the team, but still found a way to be influenced by it.
And Checketts hopes that the success that Bieber and the rest of the Santa Barbara natives are having on the game’s biggest stage will help the growth track for baseball on the South Coast.
“It just shows that the kids in Santa Barbara don’t have to leave home to find success. They can find it at the youth and high school levels, at City College, at Westmont, with the Foresters and with us,” Checketts said.
“They can find their dreams right here.”