Recent Turlock High graduate Brett Cumberland will be attending University of California, Berkeley in the fall on an athletic scholarship for baseball, but before the Bulldog star steps foot on the Pac-12 campus he is preparing himself to compete at the next level.
The 6-foot Cumberland joined the Klamath Falls Gems, which are part of the West Coast League in the Pacific Northwest, a league for college-eligible student athletes playing alongside many future or present D-I ball players.
“I wanted to do it to get ready because in the fall the competition will only get better,” said Cumberland, who was a starting catcher for the Bulldogs. “The pitching and hitting… you can tell the difference because in high school you see average pitchers everyday but up here I have seen a guy from LSU and other big schools and for me the pitching is the biggest difference and guys are more physical as well.”
This summer wood bat league is intended to accelerate the collegiate prospects from across the United States by providing best-in-class competition. The team recruits players nationwide and is committed to developing aspiring pros.
“I had options and it was a personal decision and I wanted to play in a league to best prepare me for the next level,” Cumberland said.
Cumberland, who recently finished his senior season for Turlock batting .410 and had a nine and 10-game hitting streak during the 30 game season, has seen this transition as helpful even though the number of games and time commitment is hectic.
In this league the team plays 60 games in 67 days, something that Cumberland must quickly get accustomed to if he hopes to compete for playing time as an incoming freshman.
“I just want to prepare for the fall the best I can to face the better pitching because the pitching gets better and they all have so many pitches and in high school you see fastballs a lot, here, they mix up speeds better and I need to prepare myself better for that,” Cumberland said.
There are currently three catchers on the squad, but Cumberland has seen a solid amount of playing time, whether behind the backstop or on the plate, playing in every other game, switching routinely and also pinch hitting in situations because he is a switch hitter — something that can work to his advantage.
While the possibility of turning professional is a distance away, for Cumberland the opportunity to receive a college education at a prestigious university and also play college baseball feels unreal.
“It really is a dream come true, ever since I started playing baseball I wanted to play at D-I level and get an education, that was the goal to get a scholarship since I was a kid. When I committed to Cal it hit me, it’s hard to explain because I worked so hard for something and got what I wanted — it’s an exciting experience,” Cumberland said about playing at Cal.
Training will not begin for the future Cal Bear until after Aug. 20, and by that point the West Coast League will have concluded.
During this time, Cumberland will be practicing Monday through Friday with his teammates.