Next week, spring training will get underway for all 30 Major League Baseball organizations. Among the hundreds of big leaguers and top prospects reporting to camp will be a handful of Turlockers, each at different levels and with varying goals for 2024.
Tyler Soderstrom, Oakland Athletics
Turlock High graduate Tyler Soderstrom will be reporting for his fourth consecutive major league spring training on Tuesday in Mesa, AZ., though it will be his first with MLB experience under his belt. After making his debut with Oakland Athletics on July 14, the catcher and first baseman admittedly struggled at the plate, just .160 with a .472 OPS, three home runs and 43 strikeouts in 138 plate appearances over 45 games.
“It was definitely an eye-opening experience,” he told MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo. “It was awesome to make the debut. Obviously, it was my dream, so that was pretty sweet. I learned a lot. I thought the defense part of it went really well. I thought I caught well and played solid defense, so that was encouraging. I know that I can hit, so I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. But it was good to go through that struggle, just to understand that, [in the big leagues], they’re not going to make too many mistakes. They’re going to find your weakness and keep attacking it. I think that was good for me to kind of learn that.”
Soderstrom shared with the Turlock Journal that he has made adjustments to his swing, which he is excited to implement in game situations this spring.
The A’s also expressed ultimate trust in the 22-year-olds potential by giving him extra work in the offseason, sending him to the Rookie Career Development Program (RCDP), a joint venture between the Major League Baseball Players Association and the Commissioner’s Office. All 30 teams are asked to send two to three prospects to the intensive four-day orientation that aims to help prepare young players with major league obligations, such as time management, maintaining proper nutrition, dealing with the media and handling finances among other things.
“There’s a lot of pretty big-name guys that have gone through this program, so I think it’s pretty cool as a young guy to see all the guys that have been through it and have had a lot of success in the big leagues,” he said, referring to the likes of Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts. “I think it was cool, too, that the A’s wanted me to do (the program) as well. It’s an honor. We’ve learned from guys who played one year in the big leagues to 10 years just talking about their transition from the minors to the big leagues. We went over healthy relationships and stuff like that. It’s been good. I’m learning a lot, for sure.”
Nick Avila, San Francisco Giants
Another Turlock alumnus is on the verge of making “The Show,” and he will be donning the uniform of the team across the Bay Bridge this spring.
For the second straight year, Nick Avila is a non-roster invitee to major league camp. A year ago, the right-handed reliever was in a Chicago White Sox uniform after being taken by the club in that December’s Rule 5 Draft. Despite stringing together some clean innings with the Sox, surrendering nine hits including a pair of home runs over 10 innings was enough for Chicago to not extend a call-up to the major league roster, forcing them to return him to the San Francisco organization per Rule 5 Draft rules.
Avila was immediately assigned to Triple-A Sacramento upon his return, where he proceeded to spend the entire 2023 campaign. In 56 games, the 26-year-old achieved a 14-0 record to lead the Pacific Coast. The former Bulldog was the first Triple-A wins leader since 2000 to finish the year undefeated.
Though he never got the call to the big leagues when the Giants faded out of postseason contention in September, this spring serves as another opportunity for Avila to make his dream a reality. San Francisco’s pitchers and catchers report to camp in Scottsdale, AZ. on Wednesday.
Kade Morris, New York Mets
As Oakland did with Soderstrom, the New York Mets gave extra homework to Pitman High graduate Kade Morris, who they selected 101st overall in last summer’s MLB Draft.
Morris, a right-handed-pitcher, made one appearance at Single-A Port St. Lucie last season on Sept. 14. After spending some of the offseason back home, he was once again sent to Port St. Lucie, FLA., as he was one of 53 Mets prospects assigned to the organization's January pitching development camp. Morris won’t have to do much if any traveling when he reports next week as he will be reporting to minor league camp. New York’s minor and major league spring training camps are both in Port St. Lucie beginning Tuesday.
Cole Carrigg, Colorado Rockies
While Morris and Soderstrom both reported to facilities across the country to continue their development this offseason, Turlock High alumnus Cole Carrigg resorted to some familiar stomping grounds to keep his edge.
Carrigg, the 65th overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies, has updated fans, family and friends on his social media channels throughout the offseason. He has posted videos of him taking hacks in the batting cages of Backyard Baseball in Turlock, the training facility owned by Soderstrom’s family. The former San Diego State star has also reunited with old Aztec teammates in Southern California for workouts. Like Morris, the 21-year-old will be reporting to minor league camp, which the Rockies host in Scottsdale starting Wednesday.
Planning on making the trip to Arizona to watch Soderstrom or Avila in person at major league spring training games? A complete schedule can be found at www.cactusleague.com/schedule-list.php. Select A’s and Giants games will also be broadcasted on television. Fans are encouraged to check TV listings for NBC Sports Bay Area and California to watch.