Brett Cumberland is chasing something more than just individual success. Although that came this past season, after a different offseason regime that provided the Turlock native with an ability to perform at a higher level than his peers.
During his sophomore season at Cal Berkeley this past spring, Cumberland was among one of the Pac-12's best hitters along with a steady hand behind the backstop.
He batted .344, and had a staggering 16 home-runs and 51 RBI for the year, all topped out in the Pac-12 by a long-shot. Second best in homers was 10.
“Never in my life did I expect to hit 16 homers in the Pac 12, but how I did it is lifting a lot of weights and worked on my swing during summer, winter break, all the time,” he said. “Just be prepared to have the best season possible. A lot of reps I guess because they build habits, if you want to do well.”
In nine different offensive categories, Cumberland ranked eighth or better and turned many heads throughout the year as he flourished and stamped his positioning as arguably the best offensive catcher in the Pac-12 and defensively he wasn't too bad either.
Cumberland finished the year with a fielding percentage of .988, committing just four errors in 52 games.
“I just want to get better every year and every day, all I can ask for myself,” Cumberland said. “To be better every day and set goals for myself, not just statistic goals but to compete against myself to go out there and just continue to get better, not against competing with anybody but trying to be my best self.”
The progress is evident after two years.
As a freshman, he batted .254 and hit seven home-runs and drove in 32, securing his spot on the starting rotation. This past year he improved his average by .090 by the end of his second season.
However, Cumberland, as self-effacing and tenacious as he is, battled through multiple injuries during his first year that set him back in his goals.
“This second year I had the same mental approach but one of the main differences was last year I was injured towards the last half of the year,” he said. “I was hitting .320 but then I hurt my hand and wrist so I had to stay healthy this past year which was huge for me and it made me stronger as well.”
His success was so dramatic that he also led the Pac-12 in slugging percentage with a .678 and second in on-base percentage with a .480. He ranked fifth in runs scored with 46 and second with total bases (122).
He also walked fifth most in league with 38 and was eighth in hit-by-pitch with 10. Cumberland and his Cal Bears also accumulated an overall record of 32-21, however, were 14-16 in Pac-12 play.
“Unfortunately no regionals for us. We are in a tough conference,” said Cumberland of competing in the Pac-12.
It became official last month that Cumberland is one of three Pac-12 semifinalists along with Oregon State’s Logan Ice and USC’s Jeremy Martinez for the 2016 Johnny Bench Award, which is given to the best collegiate catcher.
“What is crazy about that is I didn't know anything about it until a friend sent me a picture of the story,” Cumberland said. “Pretty good feeling because anything with Johnny Bench is an elite award. It was cool getting the text from friends and it’s awesome to be a finalist.”
On Wednesday, Cumberland was also named as one of 25 finalists for the prestigious Golden Spikes Award by USA Baseball. The Golden Spikes Award is awarded to the top amateur baseball player in the United States and Cumberland is one of two Pac-12 players, joining Washington pitcher Troy Rallings, to make the semifinal list of 25. Finalists for the Golden Spikes Award will be announced on June 13.