It’s the kind of prestigious alumni list that Harvard Law
School might produce when talk turns to prominent judges and lawyers, or John
Hopkins Medical School could whip-out when the conversation turns to research
Those comparisons may be a bit of a stretch, but NorCal
Baseball, a program consisting of youth age-group travel teams (18U, 17U, 16U,
15U and 14U) and based in Northern California’s San Roman Valley, can produce lengthy
lists of successful alumni who moved on to enjoy stellar collegiate and
NorCal Baseball was founded by Rob Bruno in the fall of
1991, and more than 300 NorCal alumni have received baseball scholarships from
NCAA Division I colleges and universities.
Having more than 300 D-I scholarships awarded to its alumni
is an impressive number for any kind of youth sports organization.
“We want to bring great young men together to play against
other great young men through the game of baseball,” Bruno said. “We do these
things for the right reasons.”
Or, as it is articulated in a mission statement on the
organization’s website norcalbaseball.org:
“It is our mission to create an environment for young
athletes to achieve their dreams of playing college and professional baseball.
We also believe that through the game of baseball we can help build character
and determination that will be an asset to our players not only for the game,
but for life.”
Bruno said 90 NorCal Baseball alumni have played baseball
professionally, including 24 that reached the Major Leagues. When conversation
turns to Major League Baseball – like prominent judges from Harvard Law or
researchers at John Hopkins – NorCal can throw out the names of alumni that
include Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Xavier Nady, Troy Tulowitzki, J.P. Howell,
Reed Johnson, and Brandon Morrow.
Eleven former NorCal players have been first-round picks in
the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, and 28 former players were chosen in
June’s 2010 draft.
NorCal teams have won national championships at all five age
levels through the years, including the CABA 15U World Series in early August.
The program was loaded again this summer at every age level.
Outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr. (2011, Fremont, Calif.),
outfielder/pitcher Billy Flamion (2011, Modesto, Calif.), right-hander Joe Ross
(2011, Oakland, Calif.), and righty Robert Stephenson (2011, Martinez, Calif.) were
all selected to the West team at the Aflac All-American Baseball Classic played
Aug. 15 in San Diego.
Bruno said he and his associates spent most of the first 10
years in their operation just watching youth baseball leagues in the Bay Area
in attempt to recognize the top talent and bring it to NorCal Baseball. But
Bruno was looking for more than raw talent. He was also looking for talented
kids with intelligence and sound moral character that came from supportive
“The biggest reason these young men are successful is their
parents,” Bruno said. “We have wonderful family support and none of this could
be done without that support.”
Most of the players at NorCal are brought into the program
for the opportunity it affords to play in Perfect Game USA events and other national
tournaments and get noticed by college coaches and pro scouts. It’s obviously
“We’ve had over 20 young men a year, over the last six
years, who are seniors (in high school)” get scholarships or get drafted, Bruno
said. “That is our goal. About 90 percent of the kids are getting that
“It is absolutely gratifying that we can be a small part of
their success,” he continued. “But we’re also just as proud of the correctional
officers that have come through our program, the successful businessmen that
have come through. The notes we get from young men that have gone through that say,
‘Without you guys I would have not got that college scholarship, and without
that college education I never would have gotten where I did because I couldn’t
afford it on my own.’”
Bruno said NorCal Baseball has benefitted greatly by its
association with Perfect Game, and he said he plans to send a team to the PG WWBA
World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 21-25.
“They’ve absolutely been outstanding,” Bruno said of Perfect
Game. “They’re the gold standard of the industry. We’re looking forward to
going to Jupiter this fall – we haven’t been there for awhile only because it’s
been very difficult for us to travel with the economy and things – but we feel
like in order to be the best you have to beat the best, and Perfect Game always
has the best teams there.
“If we have a special group we want our kids to go out and
play the best in the country.”
NorCal Baseball employs extensive fall and winter seasons
that it uses for training purposes and also to select the majority of the next
year’s summer rosters. This fall NorCal Baseball is fielding a junior high
team, a freshman team, a sophomore team and a junior/senior team.