(Photo credit to the UCLA Bruins website, UCLABruins.com, seen here)
Los Angeles is one of the most dynamic cities in the United States, and, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has one of the most dynamic sophomore classes in America. UCLA fans can look forward to the next two season of great baseball due to these players and the hard work of Coach John Savage.
After coming in third in the Pacific Coast Conference (Pac-12) in the 2017 season, UCLA had seven players go in the MLB draft. This means that the core of returners are last seasons’ freshman, and they will be the leaders of the team for the next few years. This situation doesn’t phase Coach Savage at all.
“We don’t have a lot of seniors usually because most guys sign professionally after the draft,” said Coach Savage. In a program with such success that you expect your senior class to be narrowed down to one or two players each season, getting high-level recruits becomes increasingly important. Luckily, UCLA offers some of the most unique opportunities to college baseball players in the nation.
One of these factors is its history in baseball. Dating back to when Jackie Robinson attended college there, UCLA has been a solid baseball program for the last century. In recent history, they earned their first NCAA Championship in 2013 and competed for the title in 2010.
However, the program offers a lot more than just history. For example, UCLA’s location makes it much easier to get exposure. Along with that, they have an elite coaching staff, along with updated facilities, but what really makes UCLA great is that their focus isn’t just on preparing players on the field.
“We take a lot of pride in player development and preparing them to fight the fight on their own,” said Coach Savage. To him, his job is more than creating great players-it’s about equipping them with the tools to be successful when they enter the big leagues as people as well. Many players enter the major leagues not knowing how to conduct themselves once they exit the supportive environment of a college team, but UCLA’s coaching staff helps their players be draft ready by ensuring they are ready to be professionals both on and off the field.
Aside from preparing players for the draft, UCLA has many goals for their 2018 season. They hope to, once again, perform in the top of the Pac-12, and move on to the NCAA playoffs. Coach Savage recognizes that they won’t be able to predict how the season will go until it begins.
“Each team takes on a culture of its own,” said Coach Savage. “You don’t want to get ahead of yourself, but you have goals.” Because this UCLA squad is mostly led by returning freshman, most key players have seen playing time on the college circuit before this season. They know what it means to compete, and they’re ready for that opportunity.
In order to make the most of it, the Bruins will focus on defense and pitching.
“Ball security is the utmost importance,” said Coach Savage. “We do think we are gonna be offensive, but if you don’t pitch and you don’t play defense…it’s not a good remedy to win just by scoring.” A good defense is a factor that Championship teams never lack, and Coach Savage believes that the best strategy for his squad will be to dominate defensively and back that effort up with a solid offense.