Recipe for Success: A Look Into Santa Barbara Foresters’ Championship Approach

| April 15, 2023

By CCL Reporter Sean Brennan

(SANTA BARBARA, CA) - When it comes to on-the-field success in collegiate summer baseball, few teams have a richer past than the Santa Barbara Foresters.

The eye-popping list of accolades speaks for itself.

Since co-founding the CCL in the mid-90s alongside the San Luis Obispo Blues, Santa Barbara has amassed a 1,099–330 overall record and is near the top of the league’s standings year in and year out. It didn’t take long for the six-time CCL State Champion Foresters to also become regular invitees to the National Baseball Congress (NBC) World Series, a prestigious end-of-summer tournament comprised of collegiate baseball teams around the nation. Since 2006, the Foresters have reached 12 title games, winning ten times, the most by a single team in the NBC’s 87-year history.

One of the key reasons behind the ‘Sters' success is how the organization is run from the top down. Sitting in the driver’s seat is Executive Director and Manager Bill Pintard, whose resumé is just as decorated as that of the team he’s coached for 28 years. The former Los Angeles Angel and current New York Yankees’ MLB scout has led Santa Barbara to 21 CCL titles while also securing 11 CCL Coach of the Year awards, seven NBC Coach of the Year honors and a spot in the NBC World Series Hall of Fame.

Pintard’s work in the community resulted in him being selected as an Olympic torchbearer in 2000. He was named a “Local Hero” by the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper in 2003. Six years later, he received the prestigious Sparky Anderson Award from the Association of Professional Ballplayers for his continued contributions to baseball player development. Pintard is on the board of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table and became a member of its Hall of Fame in 2011. He also arranged the Foresters’ two trips to Cuba to play the nation’s top teams.

Above all, Pintard’s decades of baseball experience allow him to connect with players and help them reach their potential. New York Mets outfielder Jaylin Davis, a member of the 2014 NBC World Series-winning Foresters team, continues to marvel at the coach’s uncanny ability to elevate players’ games.

“[Pintard] brought the best out of everybody,” Davis said. “Some guys came out there that were having bad years, but they went out there and tore it up. He finds a way to get the best out of every player. And as a coach, that’s unreal.”

Despite being one of summer collegiate baseball’s most storied organizations, the Foresters’ end goal each season remains consistent with its counterparts – putting the players first and developing them in a professional environment. For Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jon Duplantier, Davis’ teammate and holder of the second-most single-season strikeouts in Foresters’ history, Santa Barbara provided a taste of the big-league experience.

“First and foremost, [Pintard] and his staff set a precedent of treating us like men,” Duplantier said. “I can play baseball and make it my job and start treating it like a job. That really started in Santa Barbara – coach Pintard treated us like professionals. Shoot, when I got there, I was 19 years old, turned 20 that summer, and I remember feeling like a professional. That’s the way he handled us.”

There’s more to this approach, however, as treating athletes like professionals is only one part of the equation. Another integral part of Pintard’s system is fostering a laid-back atmosphere revolving around giving players freedom on the field – a philosophy that often leads to improvement across the board.

“Our number one philosophy is to get our players better, to send them back to their [college] coaches a little bit better,” Pintard said. “We also give them the freedom to play, to find out who they are as players. We don’t call every single bunt, we don’t call every pitch. We give them green lights to run.”

Even with the level of success attached to the Foresters’ name, Pintard’s coaching staff embraces failure. Allowing athletes to polish weaker parts of their game has become the standard. If a player has speed but doesn’t know how to steal bases, the Foresters will help them develop that skill… but only if the player wants to.

“When you’re at practice in college, what coach says goes,” Duplantier said. “With Santa Barbara, it was always a conversation… It was always respectful in that manner. Coach made it clear early on that he treats you like a pro,‘We’re going to treat you like adults, but we also have expectations… you need to respect those expectations.”

Needless to say, being a collegiate summer baseball blueblood with a developmental-oriented approach comes with its rewards. For Santa Barbara, the big prize is the high-end talent they bring to California’s Central Coast every summer. Over 50 current and former MLBers, including household names like St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley and New York Mets and 2023 World Baseball Classic second baseman Jeff McNeill, have played under Pintard during their college years.

Even after players have been in the Big Leagues for a decade, they never forget the summers they had in Santa Barbara. Former Boston Red Sox first baseman and Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Aaron Bates’ (2003-04) time with the Foresters will always hold a special place in his heart, and not just because of the memories made on the diamond.

A focal point within the Foresters’ organization is hard work, even when it’s being done outside of Pershing Park. In 1995, Pintard founded the Hugs for Cubs Foundation, which is dedicated to helping children battling cancer. Through the foundation, Foresters players participate in charity events throughout the season that only add to the overall experience.

“It was two of the greatest summers ever,” Bates said. “It was pretty special because of all of the stuff [Pintard] does for the guys, and how hard he works for the kids. It was definitely a blessing that I got to do that.”

In late February, Bates, Davis and Duplantier became the latest inductees into the Foresters’ Hall of Fame, which was started in 2010. All three were extremely honored to become cemented in Foresters’ history.

Even when players’ careers with the ‘Sters end, their relationship with the city and teammates does not. Duplantier and Davis, who won an NBC World Series side-by-side, are still friends to this day. Pintard has made the two-hour drive to Dodger Stadium to visit Bates, and still keeps in contact with alums across the country.

“You gravitate towards him as soon as you meet him,” Davis said. “I still talk to him, like all the time. He calls me all the time and we’ll sit there and talk for hours.”

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