Ex-Gahr and current UCLA baseball standout gaining a lot in San Diego League

 

 

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter • July 23, 2020

When the UCLA baseball season, like everything else, was cut short in March due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Cerritos resident Mikey Perez looked for another option of playing summer ball. Although there wasn’t much to choose from as almost everything was shut down, he found a home thanks to a recommendation from a friend.

Enter the San Diego League, a second-year business that isn’t your normal summer baseball league. Where a lot of collegiate baseball players join summer leagues to basically keep playing, the ones who are a part of the SDL not only play but are tested with a pair of technologies-Blast Motion and Rapsodo several times throughout the season.

“Of course, when [the pandemic] first happened, I didn’t know how serious it would end up becoming because it was obviously something I don’t think anybody really expected,” Perez said. “For the most part, I didn’t have any plans. It was just start training as soon as I could. Ever since [the season] got cancelled, I just popped right into it, ran away and got back into a good lifting schedule and workout schedule around my area at home.”

The former Gahr High standout who ended his sophomore season fourth in hitting (.333) in 13 games and had a career-high three hits against USC on Mar. 8, says he is appreciative of the league and was excited once he heard out about it. As soon as Perez got word of the SDL, he jumped on it as soon as he could knowing that it might be the only opportunity he would have to play and get some work in before his junior season with the Bruins.

Based out of Rancho Bernardo, the front office consists of John Dolak, the Commissioner, Connor Little, the Chief Operating Officer as well as recruiting coordinator, and Mark Rogoff, the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations. The three-man front office recruits the players for the league and is based on their relationships with college coaches. The league’s 2020 season was aided by the closure of the other leagues. But, even with that, Rogoff said the league has been grinding it out and building relationships with college coaches and spreading the news, trying to get kids to play summer baseball in San Diego.

“John is a baseball guy; he loves baseball,” Rogoff said. “He purchased the league prior to last summer and he is just looking to help kids. He loves baseball, he cares about kids and wants to provide an avenue for kids to either be seen and recruited if they are a JUCO player or showcase some to scouts if they are a four-year college player already.

“We are an analytics-based league and even if you’re a traditional baseball person, if you will, you have to understand that analytics play a significant role in the game now,” Rogoff later said.

This summer, there are eight teams divided into two divisions, the Land and the Sea, and Perez plays for the Long Boarders in the Sea Division. Through July 19, Perez had played in eight games and was batting .333 with 10 hits and a pair of home runs. The 10 hits were tied for second most on the team but the one thing to keep in mind is that not everyone plays in every game. In fact, there are 29 players on the Long Boarders.

 

 

 

On July 10, Perez played in the league’s All-Star Game where he hit a two-run home run in the third to help Team Sea defeat Team Land 10-6.

“That was awesome; it was a great experience,” Perez said. “Going into it, there were a lot of guys I knew previously from other summer ball teams playing against or with. So, that was a good experience just being able to catch up with some guys I haven’t seen in a while.”

The league has a partnership with a workout facility in Sorento Valley, 1RM Performance and a partnership with a hitting facility based in Carlsbad. 5 Tool. However, because of COVID-19, the league has been unable to use those two facets. Last year, the players had mandatory use of Blast Motion, an information company that provides motion analysis, pre-impact swing metrics and performance insights. This year, the league added the in-game Rapsodo element, which provides information on a pitcher’s horizontal and vertical break, 3D trajectory and release information, among others.

“To have Rapsodo in the game, you actually have to have a black box on the field of play,” Rogoff said. “It sits about 10 feet in front of the plate or so. We determined that the information that Rapsodo gathers for the pitchers is valuable enough to college coaches and scouts that we would put it in the game. Is it a distraction? The answer is no, and that’s from the players we’ve talked to. We’ve talked to two-way players even who pitch and hit, and one guy in particular said [he] didn’t notice it either way.”

Rogoff said the box has been hit three times in five weeks of play and the best analogy that can be given is it sits like a speaker hanging from the rings above the field at Tropicana Field in Tampa, FL in which if a ball hits the speaker there, it’s a live ball.

“They definitely have quite a bit of connections as well, which is awesome to have,” Perez said of the SDL. “They have the Rapsodo and the Blast Motion companies that are there with us and they have it set up for the pitchers and hitters. That’s an awesome thing to look at just to see your feedback on each game. That’s even more of a bonus, just to be in general just playing, but also have those numbers for yourself to have and kind of record.”

Every player on the eight teams won’t play in every game. So, a typical day for Perez when he is playing, and depending on what time he plays, would be to go back to the house of the friend who recommended the SDL to him where he stays. Or, he’ll get some time in lifting or play golf. Perez says that even though everyone does not play every game, the entire team still shows up on game day and at that time, players will know what they will be doing for that day.

“The greatest thing the San Diego League has going for it is San Diego,” Rogoff said. “Why wouldn’t you want to come here to play summer ball? You literally can have a 9:00 a.m. game and you’ll be at the beach by 1:00 relaxing. It’s a pretty unique and special setup here in San Diego and we really think this is going to grow big. The feedback we’ve been getting from coaches and scouts has been tremendous, and we’re going to get even bigger and better next year.”

The biggest change the league has made for this summer is that is has expanded from four teams to eight teams. Rogoff said that even without the pandemic, the league still would have had eight teams. Last year, the games were played at California State University, San Marcos. But the campus had to be shut down in March because of COVID-19.

Playing at a private high school this summer, like Christian High on the far eastern edge of El Cajon, was the best route for the league as there are less hoops to jump through, according to Rogoff. He added that the league would most likely return to Christian next summer as one of its sites. Next year, or even in two years, the league plans to have 10 teams playing at multiple ballparks.

“The league is here to help develop players, not just to get reps,” Rogoff said. “We want to help develop kids and that’s by playing, that’s by working out and that’s by hitting a lot if you’re a position player. The fact that we’re even just playing baseball this summer I would say is a major victory and we’re doing it in a right, responsible, respectable way considering the circumstances we’re in right now.”

To play in the SDL, there is a $1,000 registration fee that each player pays which goes for the entire operation of the league, ranging from the analytics to the field rental fee, maintenance of the field, the umpires and the baseballs, to name a few. The season is 27 games long with the top two teams in each league advancing to the playoffs. The semifinals are slated to start on Aug. 7 with the championship game played the next day.

“It’s been great to get baseball played again,” Rogoff said. “It’s most exciting for the players, which is most important. It’s exciting for the front office staff and our group of summer interns as well. But most importantly, it’s great to see these college athletes playing ball.”

Once the season is over, Perez, a history major, will pretty much hang out before his junior year begins at the beginning of October. He said that none of the UCLA coaches have said anything to the players yet other than general lifting stuff throughout the week when school resumes. Perez also said if he has the chance to do so, he wouldn’t mind playing in the SDL next summer.

 

 

 

 

 

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