Sonoma Stompers Enter 2023 with Lessons Learned from Debut CCL Season

| April 22, 2023

By CCL Reporter Sam Nute

(SONOMA, CA) - In their first season as part of the California Collegiate League, the Sonoma Stompers learned how to operate as a part of not just the CCL but Summer Baseball as a whole. 

Before joining the CCL, the Stompers spent six years in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs as an Independent Club from 2014 to 2019. In their six seasons as part of the Pacific Association, the Stompers had a 287-168 record, appearing in the championship game an impressive five straight times from 2015-2019.

The team has featured former Major League stars such as Bill “Spaceman” Lee and Jose Conseco, who played with the team in 2014 and 2015, respectively. In 2016, the Stompers became the first coed professional baseball team since 1950 when they welcomed outfielder-pitcher Kelsie Whitmore, catcher Anna Kimbrell and pitcher Stacy Pigano to the team. 

Whitmore and Kimbrell combined to form an all-woman battery with Kimbrell becoming just the third women to throw a pitch in a professional baseball game since 1950. All three women were huge contributors on the team’s sole Pacific Association Championship in 2016. 

Coming off of their fifth straight championship game appearance in 2019, the Stompers were rolling. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, the Pacific Association suspended the 2020 and 2021 seasons, ending the Stompers’ time with the league.

After a two-year forced hiatus, the Stompers were eager to get players back on the field for the fantastic Sonoma community and its many baseball fans.

“The City of Sonoma and the fans are what allow us to continue to do this,” Stompers general manager Eddie Mora-Loera said. “It’s a family-friendly entertainment that, when you come out to a game and walk into the stadium, you are two feet away from a potential big leaguer. It’s just the significance of young kids and families being able to see these up-and-coming players as being role models.”

Moving from an Independent professional league to a college summer league was an adjustment for the Stompers, who joined the CCL relatively late in the offseason cycle. Despite the rookie campaign, the Stompers took away some valuable lessons. The first being the size of their roster.

“The organization had similar viewpoints,” Mora-Loera said. “We need to have more players because we were used to having a smaller roster, so we need to have more players.”

During the 2022 season, the Stompers were surprised by the difficult grind the CCL had over its nearly 50-game season. Throughout the season, the Stompers saw 43 players appear for them at one point or another, but, due to a variety of reasons, they ended the season with only 33 guys dressed for the final game. 

“When you’re going through playing 48 games in two months, you’re going to be sore,” Mora-Loera said. “Hamstrings are going to feel a little tight. Every team in the state has a great staff in the event that something pulls or something like that, and you have to go through it.”

The second lesson when adjusting from professional baseball to amateur baseball is that development is the main focus of a college league. The Stompers were able to retain their main coaching staff, led by head coach Zack Pace. In a league focused on development, the Stompers are equipped with coaches that have played at every level, including professional ball. 

While adjusting to coaching college players was not much different from handling professionals, the Stompers’ lack of a huge roster size forced them to play players more often than they had ever played before. CCL teams can play up to six times a week, and when college players are used to playing four times a week, getting them ramped up can be an issue.

“How are we going to develop these guys to understand what it feels like to play five, six times a week,” Mora-Loera said about the challenges his coaches faced when making the switch. “If you’ve never experienced that before, you’re not going to have that feeling. That’s why they call it the grind. What we’re working on is how to support these players and try and get them to pro ball.”

Headed into the second season in the CCL, the Stompers have learned lessons from their 2022 campaign and have begun to apply them. The message to their players and fans is clear: The Stompers are here to develop guys to their full potential but don’t forget winning is always a priority. 

“We want to win,” Mora-Loera said. “We want to win, and the guys that we bring on board to our team, we believe every single one of them will help us to win. So that’s definitely a priority. The other aspect of it is we also understand that this is developmental. This is to help them make it to the show and make it to being drafted into affiliate ball, so it goes hand in hand.”

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