The underdog story of the Longhorn Baseball Club
by Chris O'Connell

Field of Dreamers

Photo by Matt Wright-Steel

The underdog story of the Longhorn Baseball Club
by Chris O'Connell

Field of Dreamers

Photo by Matt Wright-Steel

The Godfather I meet the Godfather on a Friday. It’s spitting rain, not idyllic baseball weather, but I’m not exactly at Wrigley Field, and although there’s an apocryphal story of Lou Gehrig once hitting a towering home run not five miles from where I stand, I’m not here to meet the ’27 Yankees.

That is, unless Murderer’s Row spent pre- and post-games mowing grass, raking dirt, and otherwise trying to salvage what is technically a baseball field, but as of this moment looks how the Barton Springs floor feels between your toes. On Saturday, 20 years’-worth of Longhorn Baseball Club alumni will square off against the current club team. It has just rained, and the diamond is looking rough. This kind of groundskeeping is rote for the LBC. If you don’t do it yourself, you don’t play.

The Godfather, a squat man in his mid-40s, is, like many of his compatriots, heavy-legged and thoroughly squeezed into his uniform. He introduces me to a litany of alumni of varying ages, and, of course, nicknames: Skip, Chief, Nash, Big Cat, Bushman, Bam Bam, the list goes on. I feel like I’m in a Matt Christopher book.

The playing surface reminds the Godfather of the one the LBC adopted in its genesis in 1994 at the nearby Mendoza Field in East Austin. “They’re really crappy fields,” he says, gesturing to his crew wielding half an aisle of Home Depot goods. “But we did a lot of this to them.” One of the guys is cheerfully mowing the grass in shallow left field, and the ambient chatter and laughter in the background betrays any notion of this landscaping duty as forced manual labor. All this, to play one game tomorrow, where the likely outcome is a wild pack of millenials tearing the old folks a new one? In front of their wives and kids?

“Yeah,” the Godfather says. “It’ll be fun.”

The Godfather isn’t even his official LBC nickname—that would be Mr. Intensity or Slow-Mo, take your pick—but it’s what some of the younger generation of players have come to call Rob Morales, BS ’96, Life Member. He’s the Godfather because in 1994 he created something out of nothing. He’s the Godfather because he provided a foundation that enabled a second chance for hundreds of baseball misfits and castaways. He’s also the Godfather because he is a mythic figure, a relic of days past whom few involved with the club over the years outside of his teammates had even met. That’s because there is no official history of the club that barnstormed Texas A&M one spring afternoon and (successfully) dared the Aggies to form a team; went 26-1 in 2001 to capture the inaugural National Club Baseball Association championship; and for one day, before Ricky Williams garnered the highest percentage of Heisman votes since the 1940s, counted the Texas running back as a member of the team.

Until now.

Longhorn Baseball Club

The April 18, 2015 game against UT-San Antonio at Westlake High School. Credit clockwise from top: Anna Donlan (4); Matt Wright-Steel; Anna Donlan; Matt Wright-Steel

Great Salvation

No one in his family—neither of his parents nor his 17 aunts and uncles—had even attended college for more than a year. Regardless, Morales decided he was going to Texas to play baseball as early as age 10. Led by head coach Cliff Gustafson, BS ’53, the 1983 Texas Longhorn baseball team ran through the postseason like a bayonet against an onslaught of silk scarves. Morales watched in wonderment as the likes of Roger Clemens and Calvin Schiraldi befuddled batters en route to a perfect record in Omaha, before finally clamping down on Alabama on June 11 to take the title. Morales remembers sitting on the floor in his living room in San Antonio. Unable to sleep, his eyes glued to the tube TV, his mind was ensnared with the promise of wearing the same uniform as Clemens someday. Maybe he’d play first base. Maybe he’d play third. Either way, he was headed up to Austin.

He had a good, if not pedestrian, high school career, but he trained like college baseball was inevitable. His senior year, he thought, he’d really turn it on. He got a hit in his first at-bat, then he went zero for his next 11. “It doesn’t matter what I do now,” Morales remembers thinking, and despite a decent second half of the season, he went unnoticed by college scouts. He won an academic scholarship to UT—half of his dream was now in reach—and decided he’d walk on to the baseball team, as he’d heard that Gustafson usually kept a couple guys after tryouts.

So he trained even harder. And then he missed his chance.

“I didn’t realize [tryouts] were the very first day of classes,” Morales says. Heartbroken but determined, he kept running and lifting weights, fully intending to walk on to varsity his sophomore year. He was stronger and faster, but more rigid, out of playing shape. It was harder to get down on grounders and turn on fastballs. Still, his one-day tryout turned into a week, which turned into two, and then a month. Gustafson kept bringing Morales and another hopeful back, day after day, encouraging the two men to compete for one open roster spot. At the end of the month, Coach Gus, as he is affectionately known, cut Morales loose.

Another year, another dream smashed to bits. Sure, he was getting an education, but he missed his first love, and outside of taking batting practice in a cage or chucking a ball against a brick wall, baseball isn’t played by one’s lonesome.

“I wanted to play baseball because God gave me those talents, and I didn’t have an outlet to do it,” Morales says. “I felt like a truck that never gets to go out into the wilderness, never gets to go out on a hunting trip—just kept in the garage all the time.”

So, huddled in his Jester East dorm room one night with a couple like-minded baseballers who were also at varsity tryouts, Ben Shaw, BA ’97, Life Member, and David Garcia, BBA ’98, MBA ’05, JD ’10, Morales hatched a plan. If they couldn’t play for varsity, they’d form a club team. Morales marched down to Randall Ford’s office at RecSports and made the case for forming a club. At a school with such an immense pool of talent from which to pick, why not?

“He was very determined and very passionate about baseball,” says Ford, BA ’90, Life Member, now in his 23rd year at UT. “He had to be. We don’t go out and solicit students, like, ‘Hey, do you want to start a baseball club?’”

“I wanted to play baseball because God gave me those talents, and I didn’t have an outlet to do it.”

They’d have a tough road to hoe, Ford told him. Engineers on academic scholarships don’t exactly have a ton of free time as it is. They’d have to motivate themselves, or the entire operation would fall apart. They’d have to be OK with potentially slumping grades and hits to their social lives. From Morales and the gang’s vantage, however, this would be their social lives.

With Coach Gus’ signature on their charter and some hand-me-down helmets and bats from varsity, the Longhorn Baseball Club entered a trial period, during which time they merely practiced and scrimmaged among themselves. They recruited players from a table on the South Mall and Coach Gus even let Morales and Shaw speak at varsity tryouts—hey, if you get cut here, come see us. You can at least take some batting practice and keep throwing. It was like The Sandlot: The College Years because to their knowledge, there weren’t any other teams to play, no league in which to take part. To earn extra cash for field rentals, they cleaned up after World Championship Wrestling events at the Frank Erwin Center and worked security at an Eagles concert at Memorial Stadium. It was arduous, boring labor just to pay umps and rent dilapidated fields, but Morales didn’t see an alternative.

“We were on a shoestring budget,” he says.

The relationship that the LBC fostered with Coach Gus’ varsity team was, at least in Morales’ view, supposed to be mutually beneficial: The club would get cheap or free gear and a chance to cherry-pick top cuts from the big squad, and varsity could use the club as a feeder system of sorts. Guys rehabbing injuries could ramp up to higher competition by slotting in with the club for a game or two as practice.

The club officially became a member of UT RecSports in 1995-96, during which time, Morales started cold-calling schools. North Texas and SMU had club teams and were more than willing to add Texas to their schedules. Some athletic departments didn’t have club baseball teams, like Prairie View A&M, but sure, the LBC could get a crack at their varsity team. The schedule was filling up, and the LBC regularly caravanned to Denton and Dallas, even out to the mountains to play an impromptu spring break tournament against Colorado and Colorado State. But there was one missing piece of this puzzle: Texas A&M. Calls to varsity weren’t working, so Morales and an Aggie donor he knew from a summer internship piled into a car and drove to College Station to storm varsity tryouts.

After tryouts, Morales hurled a challenge at the Aggies: “Hey, we’re doing this because we’re a school rich in tradition, and we understand you guys have some tradition. We’d love to have you on our schedule. If not, well, we’ll make a note of it in our records.” The mind game worked. Weeks later, a castoff from Aggie varsity called Morales asking for some help with starting a club team. The following year, A&M had a fully chartered team, and for the last 20 years, the rivalry has remained the most important to the LBC, especially in a time where Texas and Texas A&M no longer play regular-season varsity sports against each other.

To this day, whenever Morales runs into an Aggie, he says: “You know, I’m not only the founder of the UT club team, I’m also the founder of the A&M club team.”

John Mayer

Catcher, President


John Mayer played catcher for the LBC and served as team president. He was a member of the team that won the NCBA World Series in 2001. In 2012, he organized the LBC alumni group, poring over old rosters and email lists to assemble a group that is now 130 members strong. Mayer broke his ankle during a play at the plate against Texas A&M in 2001. “The guy was out by a mile, so I was pretty relaxed. At the last minute, he lowered his shoulder into me and knocked me back into a hole,” Mayer says. “It got a little heated that day. We had no love for A&M.” An accounting major at UT, Mayer now lives in Dallas and works at an oil and gas company, reporting to the SEC.

Colter and Tyler Grote

Third base, pitcher; Second base, pitcher, president

"Pony"; "Grote"

Colter and Tyler Grote grew up in Dayton, Texas, with a mutual love for baseball. Tyler mainly pitched, with some infield work, and Colter mainly played third and pitched some. Separated by four years in age, Colter and Tyler never played together on the same field in a competitive situation until Tyler’s final semester at UT. “I delayed graduation until December—I did four and a half years, basically,” Tyler says. “So we got to play one semester together. That was awesome.” Tyler works in oil and gas and Colter is a personal trainer at UT RecSports.

Josh Granados

Outfield, vice president

Josh Granados played outfield for the LBC, serving as vice president from 2008-09. Coming out of high school in El Paso, Granados had an opportunity to play varsity baseball at San Angelo State, but chose UT for academic reasons. It wasn’t until his sophomore year that he learned about the LBC. “My dad always said, ‘You don’t stop playing baseball because you get old, you get old because you stop playing baseball,’” Granados says. “That’s all I was really looking for—to keep getting on the field.” Granados works in the Gulf of Mexico as an offshore field engineer.

Shawn McCallum

Head Coach


After playing varsity baseball at Rice, Shawn McCallum enrolled at UT, where he was head coach of the LBC from 1997-2002, including the team’s undefeated run through the inaugural National Club Baseball Association World Series. He currently lives in Cedar Park and works in global marketing. “We want to get to the younger guys who came after us and build that brotherhood and that family,” McCallum says. “I heard someone calling us a fraternity the other day. It’s more than that.”

David Garcia

First base, co-founder

David Garcia is a co-founder of the LBC, along with Morales and Shaw. A third baseman, Garcia is also a triple graduate of the University of Texas, with BBA, MBA, and JD degrees. He practices law and lives in Austin.

Rob Morales

Third base, co-founder, president

"Mr. Intensity", "Big Mo" or "Slow-mo", "The Godfather" (Unofficial)

Rob Morales founded the Longhorn Baseball Club in 1994 after arriving on the Forty Acres on an academic scholarship. Morales played first base, but more importantly, he was instrumental in legitimizing the LBC, organizing games, fundraising, and even barnstorming Texas A&M to ensure they had a club baseball team. “I have a lot of passion for the team,” Morales says of his ongoing commitment to the LBC. “I feel like if I had a title, it would be ambassador for the team.” Morales works in oil and gas in Houston.

Trent Busch



Trent Busch was an early member of the LBC, playing shortstop from 1995-99. He works for a surveying company in the Dallas area.

Ben Shaw

Second base, president, co-founder

Ben Shaw is a co-founder of the LBC, and played second base. He arrived at UT on an academic scholarship, and met Morales at varsity tryouts in 1994. He was the team’s full-time manager during the 1997 spring semester. “I’m proud of what we got started here,” Shaw says, “and that they keep going and keep it alive.” Shaw works in IT and lives in Pflugerville.

Photos by Matt Wright-Steel

Glory days

Morales graduated in the fall of 1996, eventually losing touch with the team, but not before handing the reins to Shaw. By this time, the team had a full slate of opponents to count on every season, but it didn’t have financial stability or a decent field on which to play. By this time, Coach Gus had resigned in the wake of a financial scandal stemming from what the NCAA deemed were improper benefits culled from summer baseball camps run by him and his son Deron. Vaunted Cal State Fullerton coach Augie Garrido took over, and he was thrust into a dire situation. Long gone were the days of month-long tryouts for a final roster spot—Garrido entered Texas during a period of turmoil following Gustafson’s departure, meaning he had to win immediately. He was also following the then-winningest coach in Division 1 history. The roster spots that might have been held for walk-ons went to junior-college transfers out of necessity. The dream that the LBC had of someday becoming a minor league team for varsity was dead. And the fields were just as decrepit as ever.

“There were divots and rocks in the infield,” says then-member and future president Scott Austin, BJ ’99. “This was just sub-college level. You get hit so many times in the chest … It probably made us better.”

New president Shaw needed his P.T. Barnum moment, and he almost got it in 1997. Shaw had heard from a teammate who lived in Jester and claimed to be friends with superstar Longhorn running back Ricky Williams. Williams, having played minor league baseball in the Phillies’ farm system, was ineligible to play NCAA baseball. This teammate had brazenly claimed that he could get Williams to join the LBC, but after a couple weeks, it seemed like a lost cause.

Until one day.

It was like The Sandlot: The College Years because to their knowledge, there weren’t any other teams to play, no league in which to take part.

“Sure enough, I see this black Escalade come rolling in, and it doesn’t look like one of our guys,” Austin says. “Ricky walks out and everyone knows who he is, of course.” Still, Austin remembers the famously quiet two-sport athlete introducing himself to the entire team. “He goes, in this soft voice, ‘Hi, I’m Ricky.’”

“He showed up in his baseball gear ready to play,” Shaw says. “His legs were like tree trunks.”

“He had a cannon for an arm, and he had so much power, he could just rip it,” Austin says. Clearly, he would be the team’s ringer, the Kelly Leak in burnt orange and braids. The LBC had big plans for Williams. Shaw made a roster spot for Williams on the LBC website. Austin, then an eager budding journalism major, planned to get the story in the Daily Texan. Then, according to Austin, one of his coaches found out about Williams’ new hobby, and his LBC career was over just as soon as it began.

“Unfortunately, he was only out there one day,” Shaw says, in the same hushed, gee-whiz tone I hear in my head when Austin imitates Williams’ introductory sentence. “I like to tell people I was Ricky’s coach.”

After Shaw and Austin navigated the rocky waters of decentralized Texas club baseball in the mid-to-late ’90s, a governing body was finally formed in 2000, the National Club Baseball Association. By this time, the founders and early members of the club were long gone: Morales lived in Dallas and worked in oil and gas, and Austin had started his journalism career in New York City. Shaw and Garcia stayed local, but had both dived headfirst into their adult lives. The common link was Shawn McCallum, BA ’02, whom Austin hand-picked to take over as head coach in the fall of 1997 after McCallum saw an ad for the position in the Daily Texan. McCallum played varsity ball at Rice in the early ’90s, and was headed back to school to earn a degree in finance. While the Morales, Shaw, and Austin-led teams were serious about the game, McCallum was even more so, as he was mostly a manager only. That’s why they call him Coach.

By 2001, the team was stacked with guys who turned down Division III offers or prefered walk-on positions at smaller Division I schools to join the LBC and get a better education. This notion of spurning varsity ball for a top-notch degree is intrinsic in the history of the LBC, from forefathers Rob Morales and Ben Shaw to current club president Blake Sandall, and innumerable students in between. Greg Martinez, BS ’01, who, in addition to his academic scholarship, says he had a handshake deal to walk on with Coach Gus, saw that offer vanish the instant Gus resigned. In his late 30s and still looking like he could both plug into Vance Bedford’s nickel package and pull off a triple gainer for swimming and diving coach Eddie Reese, Martinez (“Chief”) actually walked on to the football team as a wide receiver during his sophomore season. He just wanted to see if he could. Randy Jones, BBA, MPA ’01, Life Member, (“Bam Bam”) missed half of one season with work and school commitments and still led the NCBA in home runs. More than one member of that team told me that third baseman Jacob Sanchez, BS ’02, (“Big Cat”) was one of the greatest fielders they’d ever seen. The team, as a whole, hit an astronomical .412 on the season. With a veteran ballplayer devoted to coaching, a loaded roster of smart, athletic ballplayers, a president in John Mayer, BBA, MPA ’02, Life Member, (“Skip”) to take care of the dirty work, and an organized league setting now in place, the LBC made a historic run to capture the inaugural NCBA World Series title.

Jones, whose nickname relates less to his on-field prowess with the bat than to his propensity to slam said bat after a strikeout, was a particularly intense member of that team.

“Against Del Mar, he hits a shot and comes around to second base, slides in, and the guy said something to him but he didn’t hear,” Mayer says. “So he stands up and says, ‘What’d you say?! What’d you say?!’ And [the Del Mar player] says, “I said, ‘Nice hit.’”

Longhorn Baseball Club

The LBC slugged its way to a 9-0 victory in the middle of a nine-game winning streak. Credit clockwise from top: Anna Donlan (3); Matt Wright-Steel; Anna Donlan (2)

That kind of fire led to a 26-1 record in 2001, the one loss coming on an improbable 10-run comeback by Del Mar College in which McCallum got himself tossed from the game. But the Longhorns had one final test before securing a spot in the World Series: Texas A&M. The LBC needed one win to get into the postseason. They ended up sweeping the entire series.

“It was fun kicking their butts,” McCallum says, the glee still present on his face. “That was the team that I wouldn’t tell them strike zone’s ‘shins to the chins.’ You get your hit and you rock it. If it’s 30 to five, it’s 30 to five, I’m sorry.”

Now locked in to the NCBA World Series in Syracuse, McCallum prepared for battle. He gathered his troops, and asked if they wanted to train like the pros do, to make one final push for glory.

“Ricky Williams showed up in his baseball gear ready to play. His legs were like tree trunks.”

“I put out the time commitments, the days, the places we were going to practice,” McCallum says. “We would practice, then we would go to the track and do conditioning. They hated me, but they were loving it at the same time.”

That focus came unglued in the LBC’s first World Series game against Central Michigan, partially because of the palatial, AAA minor league stadium in which the tournament was held. Down early in the game, McCallum called the team into the tunnel that connects the dugout to the locker room, thinking it would be the most private place for a Bobby Knight-esque rant. It turns out that the acoustics were such that McCallum’s pep talk was amplified to most in the crowd.

“There was some colorful language,” Martinez says, laughing. “I think someone’s grandma up in the stands heard him.”

Regardless, it worked. The Longhorns came back to beat Central Michigan, then stuck around to scout their next opponent, Ohio State. They figured out the Buckeyes’ leadoff hitter’s tendency to attempt a steal immediately after getting on base, so the following day, McCallum issued a directive to his starting pitcher: “Walk him on four pitches,” he remembers saying. “[But] act upset when he walks.”

The pitcher did just that, and just as McCallum had predicted, the Buckeye morale shot sky-high.

“They’re screaming, yelling, jumping, people coming up to the field, just going berserk,” McCallum says.

It was one of those moments in sports where one clever, risky decision can prove to be the difference between tragedy and triumph.

The comeback wins, the rousing by McCallum, the debasement of a worthy opponent in the opening game is indicative of a team that was and still is remarkably close-knit.

On the first pitch, Gabe Hernandez came to a set position, waited a beat, then slide-stepped toward home instead of attempting a pickoff. Catcher Travis Johnson, BBA ’04, sprang out of his crouch, received the pitchout, and lasered the ball across the diamond, beating the stupefied would-be base thief by a country mile. And then … silence.

“They were just: ‘Oh my gosh. The University of Texas. Wow,’” McCallum says. “And they were done. There was not a peep. That kid never tried to steal a base again.”

The LBC came back in every single game in Syracuse to take the series, eventually out-dueling the University of Virginia 5-2 in the final. The comeback wins, the rousing by McCallum, the debasement of a worthy opponent in the opening game game is indicative of a team that was and still is remarkably close-knit. Martinez goes on a tangent about their trading off of groomsmen duties—he was in his wedding, those two in his, I was in theirs. The LBC is even more important than his year on varsity football.

“If I had to trade one experience for the other, winning the World Series and playing with these guys was just as, maybe more important to me because these are the guys I’ve formed a bond with,” Martinez says. “These guys are my family.”

Heavy Mettle Parking Lot

In 2002, Morales was living in Dallas. One day, while he was crossing a parking lot, a truck pulled up and the man inside, past LBC president John Mayer, asked about his LBC T-shirt. Morales introduced himself.

“Rob Morales?! You’re the Rob Morales?” Mayer asked, in disbelief.

“Yeah, bro,” Morales replied. “Nobody’s ever called me that.”

Morales gave him his business card, and these two unwoven strands were seemingly wound back together. Mayer couldn’t believe the happenstance; they had missed each other by a single semester at UT. Still, he tucked the card away and didn’t look at it again for a full decade.

In the fall of 2012 Mayer rounded up all the alumni he could for a Colorado skiing trip over New Year’s. Everyone agreed that they should form an alumni group, so the next spring, they took it a step further. Mayer contacted Ford at RecSports for help.

“We started going through all years, tracking down presidents from various years, and getting contact information, and rebuilding rosters over time,” Mayer says. “LinkedIn, Facebook, old emails and phone numbers … just doing legwork.” The next step was getting the Godfather involved. He dug out Morales’ card and dialed the phone. As luck would have it, Morales had the same number. Would he like to get back in the game? It would take time, money, and effort to organize folks and provide support to the current team.

“I jumped at the chance,” Morales says.

Now 130-members strong, events like the alumni game are some of the most important for the current club, raising morale and, even better, cash.

Pitchers Brandon Alex, Billy Begala, and Blake Sandall combined for a three-hit shutout. Credit: Anna Donlan (5)

Step Into the Breeze

It’s raining again months later when the team is gathered back in Austin to cheer on the current club as they face off against UT-San Antonio at Westlake High School. Of course there’s a tarp on the infield when the team arrives. It’s like the LBC can’t have nice things. But asking the vets to hang up the cleats and let the youngsters fend for themselves like they had to in the ’90s is like asking Sisyphus to take five. They can’t. And so they continue to roll that pristine-white, red-stitched Rawlings boulder bearing the NCBA logo up that hill.

Morales approaches recent grad and LBC alumnus Josh Granados, BA ’12, in his hand a small, neat pile of dollar bills. “Do you want to sponsor a game?” Morales asks Granados. Now an offshore field engineer in the Gulf of Mexico, he chose Texas and the LBC over varsity ball at San Angelo State. “Of course,” Granados says, as he adds a few bills to his stack.

The eagerness with which Granados is willing to fly in for a regular season game, spend his weekend rooting for a roster of kids he barely knows, and to then shell out cash on top of that is impressive. Especially considering that no club, including the ones he played on, received alumni support before 2013.

“I have friends for life [here],” he says. “A lot of people miss that motivation and that drive in college, and baseball gave us that.”

Everyone is warming up as the clouds part, giving way to the day’s first peek of afternoon sun. They take soft toss, they throw long toss. Four children throw in unison in the bullpen. A little girl with a notepad and pencil is slumped in the grass outside the batting cage, taking notes—perhaps a neophyte baseball writer. Westlake is getting pounded on the field above; the LBC takes a backseat to high school ball. A current member of the LBC is stretching his legs. With elastic around his ankles, he shuffles laterally back and forth like a duck. Did Morales’ team ever have a separate batting cage for pregame warmups, or a bullpen, or even a rudimentary device with which to stretch their hamstrings? Akins High School records the final out of the ballgame preceding the LBC’s.

The team that began with Morales, Shaw, and Garcia spitballing in a dorm room in 1994 has grown stronger with every alumnus added to the ranks, with every former civil engineering major who delights in hearing the pop of the catcher’s mitt as his 18-year-old analog takes the cutoff throw from right field and fires it home. There’s an air of legitimacy to the club now, as if every day the team becomes more firmly planted in reality than in the realm of dreams.

There’s an air of legitimacy to the club now, as if every day the team becomes more firmly planted in reality than in the realm of dreams.

The one piece missing is that elusive relationship with varsity. The alumni are ready to try again, should Garrido retire or be fired.

“Augie is obviously a legend, and he does it his way, which is fine, [but] if there was a real opportunity to have the varsity team support this group … I think that’s very important,” Austin says, from his office in San Francisco, where he is deputy tech editor at the Wall Street Journal. “Someday we’ll get back to that.” (Gustafson and Garrido declined to comment for this story.)

“I’m hoping that, if we ever have a future coach, they’ll take notice,” Morales says. “They’ll say, ‘That guy can be playing on our team right now. That guy’s better than our third basemen. Hey, that pitcher right there, he’s got some stuff. We need to give him a chance.’”

Blake Sandall, a senior and the club’s current president, has observed a swell in support during his four years on the team. “Just this week, Shawn [McCallum] showed up at one of the practices. He gave us a pep talk, hit us some infield and outfield,” he says. “If they’re around or available to help, they will. This weekend they all wanted to do something, and I had to say, ‘Look, we don’t have this many roles.’”

But the LBC still faces an uphill battle. The players umpire Little League games as trade for usage of their practice field, and are relegated to playing home games out in Manor. The alumni events are their biggest fundraisers each year, but they still have to carpool in minivans to road games. Sandall, a natural leader, sees an easy transition from player to alumni the second he leaves campus.

“When I graduate I’m going to do a lot to try and get some of the guys from my time on the team involved,” he says.

Out in the hills of Westlake, the glimmer of pastoral baseball weather begins to fade. The ragtag gang of alumni players are lined up along the third base line-fence in civilian garb, as close to the dugout without actually being inside of it, hollering advice at the phalanx of current ballplayers. “I don’t need these guys to show up every year,” Morales says, matter-of-factly but not flippantly. Morales and the alumni have told me a mind-numbing amount of times just how fulfilling it is to give back to the current team, to cheer loudly and fill the bleachers that were empty for years, and to just be with the guys again. But what about the gradual decline in his grades over his tenure as founder and president, the lack of sleep, and the detriment to his social life?

“It was worth it that I got to play baseball,” he says.


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