CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – A lot of kids use springboards during the summer. It’s hot during the summer months, so they head to the pools and jump off of the springboard to cool off whenever they get the chance. The entire United States just got done watching the Olympic springboard divers get done in Rio, an impressive showing by the best divers in the world.
But the best springboard performance of the summer may well have gone to Bret Boswell of the Santa Barbara Foresters, who used his time in Santa Barbara in the California Collegiate League to springboard himself into what could turn out to be his best collegiate year, and his last, if he continues to play like he did this summer.
Boswell hit .392 this summer in Southern California, and that is only the first of many seriously impressive numbers he posted. He also had a .470 on-base percentage, .715 slugging percentage and a 1.185 OPS. Those numbers are a big reason why Boswell is the 2016 Perfect Game/Rawlings Summer Collegiate Player of the Year.
“First of all, I think [the success this summer] was partly because it was my third year in Santa Barbara,” Boswell said. “I knew what I was getting into. It helped being able to play for Bill [Pintard] and just relax out there. I just worked on keeping everything simple. That’s what Bill preaches, being smooth and comfortable on the field.”
Boswell racked up 62 hits in the 34 games he played this season, with 17 doubles and 10home runs as well. The shortstop did a little bit of everything for the Foresters, and he did it every single game.
The Texas Longhorn hit safely in 31 of his total 34 games, and if it’s even possible to do this, he got better during the second half of the season. Over the course of his final 23 games, he hit safely in 22 of them, including the last 13 games he played.
For good measure, when he played in the league’s all-star game, he was 2-for-4 with an RBI. He was also named the MVP in the playoffs, guiding the Foresters to their 21st CCL championship. A week later, they added another championship trophy, beating the Hays Lark in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., the sixth time in 11 years they claimed the NBC title.
In Wichita Boswell went 5-for-13 with five runs scored, six driven in and a pair of home runs in three games.
For Boswell, this summer was a rebirth of sorts. Before he headed out to Santa Barbara to play for the Foresters, he was finishing up his redshirt sophomore year at Texas, in which he didn’t necessarily play his best baseball. He hit .241 in 44 games for the Longhorns playing mostly at shortstop, with 10 doubles, two home runs and 20 RBI on the year.
He started to hit towards the end of the year with Texas, however, and completely exploded during the Big 12 Tournament. He hit .600 (9-for-15) with three doubles, one triple, four RBI and four walks, adding up to a .650 on-base, .933 slugging and ridiculous 1.583 OPS. That work, as it rightful should, landed him on the all-tournament team, and served as another springboard during his summer. Boswell said it wasn’t that he was trying harder during the tournament, but rather that he stopped putting so much pressure on himself.
“Honestly, I just kind of said ‘screw it’ and just played ball,” Boswell said. “Maybe I changed my approach a little bit. I focused more on putting the ball in play, not trying to be a power hitter. I didn’t care about hitting gaps or over the fence. Early in the year I fell in love with the long ball. But during the tournament I wanted to hit the ball and put it in play, and make sure that if I got a fastball I didn’t miss it.
“[The Big 12 Tournament] definitely came with me to Santa Barbara. I felt really good heading out there. I was hoping that approach would carry over to the summer, and I stuck with it.”
The flash Boswell showed in the Big 12 Tournament did catch professional scouts attention, as he was drafted in the final round of the 2016 MLB First Year Player Draft, No. 1,215 out of a total 1,216 picks. It wasn’t where he wanted his name called, but it did get called, and that’s a start.
The Rockwall, Texas, native could have had a shot at the next level if he so chose, and that is a good sign for things to come, considering the last week he played for Texas and the entire summer spent in sunny Southern California.
“[Boswell] has all the tools to play pro ball,” Bill Pintard, GM and manager of the Santa Barbara Foresters said. “He’s sub-4.2 down the line, so he can run. He’s got a plus arm, plus power and he showed this summer that he can hit for average as well.”
Pintard also noted how great of a teammate Boswell has become. He said it isn’t always a verbal leadership that he shows on the field, but it’s the fact that he is so reliable as a player and friend.
“He’s such a great teammate for his guys,” Pintard said. “He does things the right way. He cares about his teammates. He’s a quiet leader, he’s not a big ‘rah-rah’ guy. But his teammates can count on him. He became a very good situational hitter for us this summer…he’s one of the best two-strike hitters we’ve ever had.”
Boswell will now take on the task of carrying the momentum he took out to California back to Texas for his junior season in the burnt orange.
He figures to be a prominent player in the lineup while the Longhorns break in a new head coach, after 20-year head man Augie Garrido finished out his last season in Austin last spring.
David Pierce is the man hired to take over, coming over from Tulane to run one of the winningest college programs in the NCAA.
“It’ll be something new,” Boswell said of the coaching change. “We’re really looking forward to it. It was tough to see Augie go, but this is what we have dealt to us now.”
The Perfect Game/Rawlings Summer Player of the Year said he plans on continuing the approach he took at the plate over the summer, and for good reason. After all, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
“The biggest thing is just sticking to what I know and not trying to go beyond who I am as a player,” he said. “Sticking to the same approach I had this summer and performing the way I know I can is what I need to do.”
Perfect Game/Rawlings Summer Collegiate National Players of the Year:
2015: Nick Senzel