CPP’s baseball program loads bases on the field and seats in the classroom

By Noel Sanchez, Sept. 12, 2023

For the second year in a row, Cal Poly Pomona’s baseball team received a Team Academic Excellence Award from the American Baseball Coaches Association, displaying their ability to shine on the field as well as in the classroom.

The team has secured eight NCAA Tournament appearances and won countless awards since head coach Randy Betten joined the team 12 seasons ago. However, the coach made it clear while he wants to see as much on-field success as possible, he knows the order of priorities for his players.

“As much as winning is important, graduating kids and developing them as people is the most important thing,” Betten said. “To have success in the classroom, it’s something we pride ourselves on. It’s student-athlete, and we talk about that in our first meeting and all throughout the year.”

CPP’s baseball team achieved this award four times since it was introduced back in 2015. To accomplish this feat, members of the team all had to maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average for the entire academic school year.

Senior right-handed pitcher Noel Soto will be entering his third season with the Broncos and developed a routine that allows him to improve his work on the mound and take care of upcoming assignments as well. Soto credits his coaches for helping the team maintain a healthy life balance.

“To be honest, it’s not easy,” Soto said. “You’ve got to think of it as a full-time job. There’s some days where we workout early in the morning, and you have to find time to get your nutrition and go to class. The coaches have done a really good job of guiding us to balance out school and baseball, so it makes it easier.”

Courtesy of CPP Athletics

The 2024 baseball season is still some time away, and Betten has only been able to touch base with this new group on the field a handful of times. Despite this, he and the rest of the coaching staff have already begun implementing their system to ensure the Broncos have the tools necessary to thrive with their schoolwork.

“The NCAA has certain rules of when we can and can’t be out there,” said Betten. “But we give a mandatory study hall, and it’s not overwhelming. It’s three to four hours a week, and it’s proctored by my coaches. We just say to be the best student you can be, stay on top of your stuff and don’t procrastinate.”

CPP finished fourth in the California Collegiate Athletic Association with an overall record of 29-23 in the 2023 season. Despite building positive momentum toward the end of the season, the Broncos fell to Cal State Monterey Bay in the NCAA Division II West Regional Tournament, bringing an end to their postseason campaign.

Soto confirmed being one of the seniors on the new roster comes with certain responsibilities such as holding teammates accountable when it comes to fulfilling their academic responsibilities as well as consistently attending practice sessions.

The veteran pitcher is looking forward to kicking off the year with some new faces and returning teammates who will remember everything they learned from the past few seasons.

“Of course we made a playoff push and made it to the NCAA tournament,” said Soto. “But I’m really excited this year because we have the knowledge from last year. We have a fair amount of guys who experienced that loss last year and from the year before where we all collectively bought in. Outside of fundamentals, we have a better idea of the mental parts of the game and how to pull together.”

Senior catcher Johnny Pappas is another prominent member of the Broncos returning to the team this year and someone Betten described as one of the voices of their clubhouse.

Pappas is studying biology and takes pride in not only making enough time for baseball and school but also passing down the routine and balancing methods that have allowed him to thrive as a collegiate student-athlete to new teammates.

“A big reason I came to Cal Poly was because of their emphasis on academics,” said Pappas. “We preach to not just players we have now but even high school kids at prospect camps: school is 1A and baseball is 1B. Something I’ve come to learn is the better I can prepare my entire week, the better I’ll be prepared for the next.”

With veterans like Soto, Pappas and so many other returning players leading the way and establishing a culture within CPP baseball to excel as student-athletes, the program looks set to forge out another year seeking the ABCA award once again.

Pappas said his top goal for the 2024 season is to see this team reach its full potential. With weeks of preparation already under their belt, the players are ready for when their season begins in the winter.

Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics

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