‘Nine Dogs are Going Out There:’ Prune Packers Prepared to Defend Back-to-Back CCL Titles

| March 27, 2023

By CCL Reporter Sam Nute

(HEALDSBURG, CA) - When athletes are lacing their shoes up before the game begins, they are thinking about one thing: What can I do to help my team win? However, it is never quite that simple, as winning requires the perfect combination of skill, effort, and just a little bit of luck.

Winning in the California Collegiate League is even harder because teams are tasked with assembling a completely new roster every year. The 11 CCL teams must form their rosters and then the chemistry of that roster must be formed in the little time they have together before the two-plus month season begins.

Over the last two seasons, one team has risen above the others, claiming both previous two CCL State Championships. The Healdsburg Prune Packers have been the dominant team in the last two years of the CCL, winning 85 of their 102 games and the team dogpiling at the end of both seasons.

“Number one, it’s built on the relationships that we have with the programs that place their players with us,” Healdsburg head coach and general manager Joey Gomes said. “We’ve made some incredible relationships over the years. I think it starts with trust, trust the players are getting better. We try to return the players a little better than we got them. We are just a small piece to the players developmental pie, and we try like heck to get it right!”

Last year’s championship roster bolstered players from some of those elite connections that Gomes was referring to. The Prune Packers had 13 players that came from a Power 5 baseball conference, including Tennessee, Texas Tech, and Texas. Coming into 2023, Healdsburg has brought in 17 Power 5 players, adding Ohio State, Alabama, and Arizona State to its already impressive list of schools.

“When it comes to the summer season, Healdsburg has everything a player would need to continue their development,” Gomes said. “Including a staff that cares about preparation and winning. Max Shupe will get to the field for home games at 1 p.m. for pre-practice defensive work. Followed by early hitting at 2 p.m. with me and pitchers do their daily’s with (Jared) Noonan. Then the team meets for the pre-game workout.”

Getting to the field at the right time is one of the things that the Prune Packers preach to their players. Routine has become one of the Healdsburg trademarks. They will be in the right place at the right time at the same time every day.

Creating that routine is something that Gomes takes pride in. The Prune Packers have partnered with two gyms in Healdsburg that give their players full access to all the weightlifting equipment that they need. Before every road game, Gomes and Shupe will bring players to their indoor hitting facility in Santa Rosa, hitting up to three times and then taking vans over to the game.

With so many games to play in so few days, off days are few and far between, but Gomes and his staff try to give his players as much time for recovery as possible. Every Monday is deemed as an off day for the Prune Packers, but that doesn’t mean that they are used to just sitting around.

“Monday means they go to gym,” Gomes said. “They use the sauna, and hot tub, get in the cold tub, and swim some of the lactic acids away. They just lay out a foam roller all day and get ready to go again. We call them recovery days, not off days.”

This routine has become the base of everything Gomes and the Prune Packers do.

“It really goes into the preparation and the routines that we have every day,” Gomes said. “The game is the bonus. It’s the work that we do before the game that is the real testament.”

The Prune Packers have done a lot of winning, especially over the last two years. Adding that drive to win to the already fantastic recruiting, and the routine that the Prune Packers take pride in becomes not just a routine of work, but a routine of winning.

“Winning matters. Everything should lead to a positive outcome,” Gomes added. “Nine dogs are going out there. Then the leash comes off, and they can have at it.”

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