2011, seven teams from the New York Collegiate Baseball League and
one expansion team united to form the Perfect Game Collegiate
RAPIDS, Iowa – In January, PGCBL
President Jeff Kunion announced that the Oneonta Outlaws—2011
champions of the New York Collegiate Baseball League—would join the
PGCBL, setting up a nine-team league that began play Wednesday.
2011 championship roster will return only one player this season. The
coaching staff hasn’t changed, but the challenges will.
expect the competition will be a lot stronger,” said Head Coach
Greg Zackrison, who has a 74-53 record (.583) in three seasons with
the team. “With the Perfect Game name attached to our league, the
goal is that we’ll move up a tier. The league-wide talent has
definitely increased in terms of Division I playing time.”
that includes Oneonta.
year, we were a power team,” Zackrison continued. “We led the
league in doubles and home runs. But most of our home runs were at
away games because our home field is huge” (the team website lists
the center field fences at 406 feet, the left and right field lines
at 350 feet). “In three years, I think we’ve hit four home runs
total at home. We must have led the league in 400-foot outs last
season, third baseman Zac Johnson (Illinois State) and shortstop Zach
Lucas (Louisville) will be counted on to provide some pop in the
Johnson was All-Missouri Valley Conference first team this season,”
Zackrison said. “He looks very good. He’s going to be a
middle-of-the-lineup guy for me. And Zach Lucas was the Kentucky
Gatorade Player of the Year last year out of high school. He led
Louisville in doubles as a true freshman.”
the large dimensions of Damaschke Field, however, management has
loaded the roster with speedy players this season.
talked about recruiting more speed, bringing in more doubles and
triples guys, and it just kind of worked out that way,” Zackrison
said. “We’re a very speedy team. We will have a green (light) guy
in seven out of the nine spots in the lineup.”
includes former FTB (Florida Travel Ball) players Orlando Rivera and
Omar Garcia (both from State College of Florida), and outfielder
Logan Brown (Baylor). Rivera stole 27 bases in 32 attempts this
season; Garcia was 30-for-33. Brown runs a 6.4 60-yard dash according
to his coaches at Baylor.
the Oneonta lineup figures to be the team’s strength, the pitching
is still somewhat in question. Four of the top pitchers Oneonta
recruited were shut down by their schools for the summer. According
to Zackrison, southpaw Sheldon Lee (San Francisco) is the favorite to
lead the rotation.
then there’s Donovan Gonzales, the lone player returning from last
very, very intelligent, a well-spoken kid,” Zackrison said. “He’ll
be in politics one day. You almost get taken back that he’s such a
January 2009, Donovan contracted a bacterial infection while pitching
for the Tampa Bay Rays’ 18 and under team in Australia. He didn’t
start feeling the effects of it until May, when a growing abscess in
his liver hospitalized him.
lost 40 pounds in two weeks. I looked like a skeleton,” Donovan
said. “They said I would never play baseball again.”
contracted the abscess, and Donovan was released from the hospital on
the same day he was drafted by the Marlins.
had worked out with a few pro teams and was looking forward to
signing a pro contract,” Donovan said. “I had to tell the teams I
was sick, but the Marlins took a flier and gave me a chance to sign
if I was able to get healthy.”
a month later, a blood clot formed in Donovan’s left arm, delaying
his rehab. This guaranteed he wouldn’t be healthy in time to sign
by the August deadline.
a pro contract, Donovan wanted to attend UC Riverside as a political
science major. But without a baseball scholarship (which was offered
to him before his illness), he wouldn’t be able to afford tuition.
That’s when he received a call from Doug Smith, the baseball coach
at UC Riverside.
not going to take away your scholarship,” Smith told Donovan. “We
want you to come and be a part of the team, even if you can’t
coaches at Riverside were very understanding,” Donovan said. “They
gave me the time I needed to recover.”
was cleared to resume baseball activities over Thanksgiving break,
less than six months after his release from the hospital.
worked my butt off for two-and-a-half months to get ready for the
season,” Donovan said. “In my first outing back, I had a
four-inning save against BYU. It was really emotional because of
everything me and my family had been through.”
scrapped a 12-to-6 curveball he used as an out pitch before he got
sick. He’s since picked up three new pitches—a slider, splitter
and a changeup—as he continues to find the “new Donovan.” His
velocity has slowly crept back to where it was in 2009, working in
the 88-90 mph range consistently this season.
hopes to continue his progress with Oneonta this summer.
want to start,” he said. “I’d like to get as many innings as I
can, help the team get back to the playoffs and win another
championship. The town deserves it because the fans are unbelievable.
They are extremely passionate about the team.” (Oneonta accounted
for more than half the league’s total attendance in 2011.)
the next 12 months go well, Donovan could find himself in the same
position he was three years ago when he was drafted.
being told I would never play baseball again, it sounds cliché, but
I’ll never take this game for granted,” Donovan said. “I’ll
just continue to work hard until I’m successful. And if it doesn’t
work out, I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to come to UCR
and get an education.
does he plan to do with that education?
don’t know,” he said. “Maybe I’ll be the president someday or