For Chal Fanning, the end to last year’s summer collegiate baseball season was like a sweet dream.
It’s the beginning of every campaign that keeps the San Luis Obispo Blues manager up at night.
As they do every season, the Blues open the year tonight with a patchwork roster while college players who’ll make up the team continue to trickle in over the next few weeks.
Playing against the Rattlers at 6 p.m. at SLO Stadium, 10 of the 32 players listed on the Blues’ roster are on teams competing in NCAA Division I regionals this weekend. Fanning will have to do without them until their teams eventually get eliminated or they win the College World Series. When the Blues are fully assembled, Fanning believes they can forge a successful follow-up to the 35-14 season where the Blues earned a share of the California Collegiate League title in the final game and finished the regular season ranked ninth in one national ranking.
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“We’re looking forward to defending that title, winning it outright,” Fanning said. “That’s kind of the goal for this year, looking for bigger and better things.
“I would be shocked and extremely disappointed if we’re not right there at the top at the very end. If we stay healthy and get all the guys in, we don’t get hit with the draft and we get the guys from regionals, I think we’ll be there right to the very end.”
After their first full season under the umbrella of the Blues, the Rattlers open with a three-game series against their intra-city brethren, highlighted by a fireworks show Saturday.
Rejoining the ranks of the summer wood-bat circuit, the Santa Maria Indians have been resurrected and will play home games at Templeton High as the North County Indians.
Of the three teams in San Luis Obispo County, only the Blues compete in the CCL, which awards its champion an opportunity to compete at the National Baseball Congress World Series at the end of the summer.
The Blues have made five appearances in the World Series since 2001 but have not been to the annual tournament in Wichita, Kan., since 2006.
A trip to the Midwest wouldn’t be such a long haul for Tennessee sophomore second baseman Will Maddox, who drove his own car to San Luis Obispo this week all the way from his family home in Georgia.
Maddox hit .297 in 101 at-bats in his freshman season with the Volunteers.
He’ll eventually be joined by up to four pitchers from Texas A&M, which hosts an NCAA regional this weekend in College Station, Texas.
Junior right-hander Kyle Martin is one of four players back from last season’s Blues squad. Fellow Aggies righthander Gandy Stubblefield is one of five players on the Blues roster that have been drafted previously.
Going to the Astros in the 11th round out of high school last year, Stubblefield has a 3.86 ERA in 10 appearances for Texas A&M. Martin is 6-5 with a 3.40 ERA and six saves, and Daniel Mengden, also headed to the Blues, is 3-3 with a 2.80 ERA and three saves.
Fellow Aggies teammate Ray Parker is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA.
“All four of the pitchers we’re getting from A&M are going to be pretty special,” Fanning said. “Some, you might see them in the big leagues some day.”
The Blues will also feature a trio of local players.
Former Mission Prep and Cuesta College standout Alex Detz is back before heading off to play for Mississippi State next year. The second baseman hit .316 with 31 RBI for the Cougars this past season.
Hofstra right-hander John Tiedemann, a former San Luis Obispo High and Cuesta standout, is back after completing a junior season where he led Hofstra in victories with a 7-5 record and amassed a 5.13 ERA.
Former San Luis Obispo High standout Sean Mullen had a medical redshirt at Cuesta this year but will be able to pitch for the Blues, said Fanning, who also serves as the Cougars’ pitching coach.
The Blues do not have any Cal Poly players signed up for the summer, but Fanning said there is still a chance an incoming Mustangs recruit could be placed with the franchise. A list of Cal Poly’s official summer assignments was not available Thursday, but Mustangs junior pitcher James Lagorio was listed on the Rattlers’ roster.