Culture—Based on Player Development, Hard Work—is Key Ingredient to Healdsburg Prune Packers’ CCL Success

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Updated: June 19, 2022

By CCL Reporter, Sean Brennan

Since joining the CCL in 2016, the Healdsburg Prune Packers have posted an impressive record of 191-56. In 2021, the team won their first CCL State Championship. While the Packers have enjoyed immense success during their first five seasons in the CCL, General Manager Joey Gomes does not see winning as his number one priority. Instead, his primary focus is to help his players develop as much as possible during their time in Healdsburg.

And Gomes says that developing players goes hand-in-hand with winning baseball games.

A large component of the Packers’ culture is putting their players first. The team encourages players to continue individualized training routines they bring from their colleges. Every season, Gomes makes it clear the organization’s primary focus is player development.

“When we first meet with the team, we let the players know, ‘We’re here for you; you’re not here for us… Whatever message your staff in the spring was trying to emphasize with you, let us just be an extension of that voice,’” said Gomes.

Gomes’ professional baseball background also shapes his method of developing players. Throughout his career, he noticed that many of the experienced coaches that influenced his coaching style were patient with their teams as long as there was progress. This understanding proved to be an important learning experience for Gomes, as he integrated patience into his own coaching philosophy.

“Over the years, I’ve grown as a coach to allow me to be more patient as long as progress was in the process,” explained Gomes.

The implementation of daily routines is another instrumental part of the Prune Packers’ culture. The team shows up at the field six hours before home games to go through position-specific drills and multiple batting practices. Daily routines like that, according to Gomes, benefit player development and are extremely rewarding when the team reaches the postseason.

“For our program, we do these daily routines to get a little bit better every day. At the end, if we’re fortunate enough, the work culminates in a postseason opportunity,” Gomes said.

Gomes went onto share, “A dividend from this summer-long process, hopefully culminating in a championship, is that the player returns to his school 10% better than last spring.”

Gomes acknowledged that his players will need to work extremely hard during the Packers’ season, as they will play 47 games in about two months. Going through the 10-week grind with a common goal will be extremely helpful in building team chemistry. While Gomes doesn’t think synergy alone wins championships, he says that not having it can be detrimental to a team’s success.

“We’ll say things like, ‘Look, we get that synergy doesn’t win a championship.’ But I remind guys that if you don’t have it, that will be the reason you won’t win one,” said Gomes.

There’s no doubt that the Prune Packers’ approach has resonated well with his players. This summer, 14 players from last season will rejoin the squad, many of whom specifically asked to return to Healdsburg. Gomes is extremely humbled by this, and views it as a testament to the Packers’ winning culture.

In 2022, the Packers will look to defend their CCL title and bring another championship back to Wine Country. Heading into the season, Gomes is most looking forward to meeting the new group and “seeing what they’re made of.”

For Gomes, it’s clear, the biggest victory of this summer will be improving his players as much as possible.