Fun in the Sun
Shane Bieber was kind enough to give the News-Press an interview during the fifth inning of Friday’s UCSB alumni baseball game at Ceasar Uyesaka Stadium.
Bieber managed the alums, and was asked, tongue and cheek, about his managerial debut. At the time, the Gaucho alumni trailed 6-0.
“It’s not going so well right now,” Bieber said with a big smile. “When we started this interview, it was only 1-0,” he added with a laugh.
It was an enjoyable day under a beautiful blue ski for Bieber and all the others who returned to the place that has meant so much to them.
Bieber won 10 games for the Cleveland Indians as a rookie last season. It was a big-league campaign that started at the ripe old age of 22.
He was the ace of the UCSB pitching staff in 2016, when the Gauchos made one of the most improbable runs to the College World Series in the history of the storied event.
He has shined at every level at which he has competed throughout his young life.
But as a manager, things didn’t go quite as well for the affable right-hander on Friday. The Gauchos of 2019 whipped Bieber’s bunch, 13-1. For the alumni team, though, it was about having a good time, catching up with one another, and taking a stroll down memory lane to when they were once Gauchos. UCSB’s alumni team included the likes of pitchers Greg Mahle, Justin Kelly, Austin Pettibone — all of whom are in pro ball now — and former Santa Barbara High star Virgil Vasquez, who is a pitching coach in the Minnesota Twins organization.
For UCSB coach Andrew Checketts, it was an opportunity to see his current team in action against guys who still know what they’re doing with a ball or bat in hand. But even Checketts admitted it was impossible to take the whole thing seriously.
“You’ve got that piece of it where you really want it to go well, you want the guys to play the right way … but you’re getting heckled by the other side pretty good,” Checketts said with a chuckle. “There’s a lot of funny stuff that’s happening and going on.
“You’re trying to play it seriously and get your guys ready and have the desire to win, but there are definitely some times where it’s hard not to chuckle or laugh and break character.”
Two other members of the 2016 team, who are also playing professionally, infielders J.J. Muno and Clay Fisher, took up residency in the alumni dugout, as well. Checketts was hoping to have his entire infield from that College World Series team, but first baseman Austin Bush couldn’t make the game and third baseman Ryan Clark had a work commitment.
Still, the alums had the dynamic duo up the middle, with Fisher at short and Muno at second — two key elements of that memorable team that crashed the party in Omaha, Neb., three years ago.
“That would have been great to have the (College) World Series infield here, but they’ll be at the reception later on tonight, so maybe we’ll throw them a few pitches in the parking lot to relive it,” Checketts quipped.
As for Bieber’s managerial effort, Checketts had some fun with one of the very best pitchers he’s ever coached in college.
“It’s hard to make some of those necessary trips to the mound when you’re in the stands and signing autographs,” Checketts joked. “I think if he was managing our club, though, he would have made sure the flag got put up (on the pole).
“I missed that one today, so he was up 1-0 on me by the time they threw the first pitch.”
UCSB opens its season on Feb. 15 at home against Loyola Marymount in the start of a three-game weekend series.