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Former Pitman athletes play their way through college
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Austin Keaton turns a double play and gets Turlock’s Kyle Briggs out at second in a cross-town rivalry game in 2008. Keaton recently signed a letter of intent to play at the NAIA’s Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. - photo by Journal file photo
Since Mick Tate is the only varsity baseball coach that Pitman High has ever had, every year he gets the same inquiry from his players.
Am I college material?

Tate knows how to answer this question. After all, part of his job description is to help provide his players with guidance. He tells them to get in contact with college coaches and to not be afraid to contact junior college teams.

This summer, however, it seems like that piece of advice has been working really well for his former players — as plenty of them are transferring from their respective JCs and their college baseball careers.

How has Pitman been so successful in this respect?

“It’s a combination of both having good athletes that have gone there and I think it’s also Coach Tate being good at pushing guys to play as long as they can, especially when he knows what they’re capable of,” said 2008 graduate Ian Fregosi, who wrapped up two years at Merced College and will continue his sport at San Francisco State.

This summer, the list of Pitman graduates moving on with their college career is extensive.
2007 graduate Anthony Jakosa is headed to the NAIA’s Campbellsville University in Kentucky. 2008 graduate Lincoln Clapper is getting ready for Division II’s Cal State East Bay after competing at Delta College. 2008 graduate Nathan Gonzalez will play at Division I’s Cal Poly San Luis Obispo after stints at St. Mary’s College and Merced College, where he played with former Pitman teammate Fregosi.

And Austin Keaton, who was also part of that 2008 class, recently signed a letter of intent to play at the NAIA’s Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. Before that, he had two successful seasons at Modesto Junior College.

In fact, this kind of promotion and attention has happened in other Turlock-area schools. For example, Denair High graduate Shawn Stuart was selected in this summer’s MLB First-Year Player Draft after playing at Merced College and Turlock High recent graduate Vince Wheeland is shaping for a career at Oklahoma State. Also, Wheeland’s teammate, Kevin Kramer, considered one of the best players in the region, has a UCLA scholarship waiting for him after he finishes his senior year.

But again, the Pride likes to see their former guys continue on.

“I’ve always wanted to play college baseball since I was a little kid,” Clapper said. “Coming out of Pitman, Coach Tate prepared me really well for me to keep playing. Going to Delta, I was excited to see what it was like.”

Tate said that unless the player is a high-profile recruit — something the Pride has had in the past — the coach encourages him to consider playing at the JC level. But to Tate, it’s not just about athletics.

“If that is what it takes to get those guys serious about education, I’m happy to do it,” Tate said.
“It’s all about education.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.