Summer Collegiate | Story | 8/22/2017

Outman Summer Collegiate POY

Bryan Cooney        
Photo: Nicole K Kittay Photography

Checking in at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Sacramento State outfielder James Outman certainly looks the part of a big-leaguer.

Coming off a solid sophomore campaign helping the Hornets earn just their second NCAA Tournament berth in school history – in which Outman led the club in doubles (16), RBI (53) and tied the team lead with 11 home runs – Outman was set to continue his good form as he competed for the Bethesda Big Train in the Cal Ripken League.

Outman did just that and more as he batted .341 with nine home runs, stole 18 stolen bases and racked up 36 RBI in 37 regular season games. More importantly, he was a key figure in the Big Train’s championship summer as Bethesda won the league title for a second consecutive season.

For his efforts, Outman has been selected as the Summer Collegiate Player of the Year by Perfect Game and Rawlings.

“My philosophy when I’m at the plate is to get runs across the board when I’ve got a chance to do damage,” Outman said. “I put a lot of emphasis that this year at Sacramento State and wanted to continue that this summer. I tried doing what I could to put runs up on the board, and did a good job of that.”

A change in the approach for Outman made a big difference in the performance for the rising junior in 2016-17.

“This year I took a huge step forward,” Outman added. “The coaching staff wanted me to steal more bases and that got me in a more aggressive mindset and I think it spread throughout my game. I hope to take another step forward next spring and elevate my game to another level.”

The Cal Ripken League gets it share of participants from around the country, but it is typical for many players to come from the Eastern United States to make up the majority of the rosters.

Big Train manager Sal Colangelo has developed strong ties with Sacramento State, bringing a number of Hornets to Bethesda in recent years. The past two seasons, the Big Train have had the Most Valuable Player for the league hail from Sacramento State in Chris Lewis in 2015 and Vinny Esposito in 2016.

What Colangelo sees in Outman is very similar to what he saw in a former Big Train star he had in 2012. Hunter Renfroe was the league MVP that year, setting records with 16 home runs, 52 RBI and a slugging percentage of .866. Renfroe’s No. 11 has been retired by the Big Train, and the first-round pick of the Padres in 2013 has blasted 20 home runs for San Diego in 2017.

“James is a physical specimen, and I compare him as a lefthanded Hunter Renfroe,” Colangelo said of his star player. “He’s got gap-to-gap power, has a very strong arm and runs in a 6.6-6.7 range. His bat will play at the big-league level.”

Colangelo has been a part of the Big Train coaching staff for 19 years and has been manager since 2005. In 2011, Perfect Game ranked his club the top summer collegiate team in the country after a third straight league title. However, the 2017 version of the Big Train, in Colangelo’s eyes, was the best club he’s ever coached.

“We take of these kids and try to make the club an extension of their college programs, Colangelo said. “I think this year’s team was by far the best team in the league’s history and certainly is the best I’ve ever coached.”

Bethesda had nine players from California, including Outman and another key cog of Sacramento State’s NCAA Tournament run, Vinny Esposito. Esposito and Outman were roommates this past season, and made the venture together to Maryland, making Outman feel a bit at home right off the bat.

“Having Vinny there was great for me,” Outman said of his summer experience. “I had actually visited the D.C. area when I was in eighth grade and remembered liking it a lot. The fact that everything is all right there location wise was really nice. I really enjoyed my host family and the things I got to do off the field, especially with the monuments in D.C. right there to visit.”

Outman thrived against the competition he got to face in the Ripken League, seeing some top-caliber arms from the power conferences across the country.

“We saw a lot of guys from the ACC and SEC with really good stuff. The whole experience was great for me on top of what we did at Sacramento State this year.”

Outman enjoyed a torrid five-game stretch early in his summer campaign from June 18-23, hitting hit five home runs and driving in 14 runs.

The Hornets have a former alum that has certainly made his presence felt as a recent call-up for the Philadelphia Phillies in Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins, a fifth-round selection in the 2014 MLB Draft has hit five home runs in first 11 games as a Phillie after hitting 25 home runs in three seasons in his Sacramento State career.

After a very good year of baseball, Outman has put himself in a position to draw inspiration from Hoskins. With another strong spring, Outman could see his name called early in next June’s draft.

“Rhys is always around the field in his time before the season and working on his game,” Outman said. “He challenged himself to get better. I’d hear about him setting the pitching machine to 100 miles an hour and go hit off it for hours. That’s the type of work it takes to keep improving.

“The coaching staff at Sacramento State harps on not letting you get too comfortable and keep working and that’s what I will keep doing.”

Outman realizes the opportunity he has in front of him, yet knows that he still has much to do at Sacramento State before he can start thinking about the future.

“This coming year I just want to have fun and compete,” Outman said. “You can’t get caught ahead in the next step and let your feet fall out from beneath you. As long as I continue working hard and focus on the game, the rest will hopefully take care of itself.”

With Sacramento State returning many of its key pieces from its NCAA Tournament roster from a year ago for Hornet head coach Reggie Christensen, Outman will be counted on to be a leader and hopefully take his team to new heights.

“We want to win a regional next season and go down in the record books for this program,” Outman said. “I want to do anything I can to lead the team. We’ve got a great player in Ian Dawkins returning in center field, along with Vinny and myself. Most of our pitching staff is coming back.

“We want to keep climbing the ladder and go places our program hasn’t been to before.”

Previous PG/Rawlings Summer Collegiate National Players of the Year:

2011: Shaun Cooper
2012: Sean Manaea
2013: Max Pentecost
2014: Phil Bickford
2015: Nick Senzel
2016: Bret Boswell

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