EDITOR’S NOTE: Presidio Sports will be unveiling its Sports Figures of the Month for the summer months during this first week of September. Stay tuned for an article on Orlando Johnson (August) later this week and be sure to check out June’s John & Mardi Warkentin. Nominations for September can be made here.
Bill Pintard, a 2011 inductee into prestigious Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Hall of Fame and the architect of the Santa Barbara Forester baseball dynasty as its longtime head coach, has been named as Presidio Sports’ Sports Figure of the Month for July, 2011 for leading the team to its third National Baseball Congress (NBC) World Series Championship in five years.
And Pintard had his work cut out for him this year — with a season that started with the loss of a handful of players to the Major League Baseball Draft and to Team USA even before opening-day ceremonies.
Then there were some early season injuries …
“Plus the caliber of the California Collegiate League (CCL) has risen considerably and everyone is aiming to get us. We are the target,” Pintard said.
Not that he is complaining — because as perennial champs (1993-2001 & 2003-2011) that’s just, well, life in the big leagues.
“It’s wonderful and it can be a burden but we wouldn’t want it any other way,” he said.
But run away with the league title this year? They didn’t, in a-typical Forester fashion.
In fact, the team needed an 8-1 win against Team Vegas on the very last day of the season before a packed house at their cozy Caesar Uyesaka Stadium to clinch a CCL title-tie with arch-nemesis the San Luis Obispo Blues.
Hours later, the Foresters (aka ‘Sters) got to ‘enjoy’ the 27-hour bus ride to Wichita for the national tournament.
Their California Cup Championship in earlier July had already guaranteed a berth for this NBC playoff action.
“I think we had a letdown after we clinched. Our intensity waned,” Pintard confided.
But, oh, did that ever change when they arrived in Kansas, ‘Dorothy.’ They caught fire like the scorching temperatures and stormed the competition harder than the torrential thunder showers that even sprang their hotel alarms.
“Thank goodness we won our first day game – an extra-innings 4-3 victory over the in-state Hutchinson Monarchs — because the on-field temperature was hovering around 118 degrees. We were worn out. Fortunately, all our remaining games were in the evenings when it was a little cooler,” he said.
After that first ‘W’ and a day off to rest and re-calibrate, the ’Sters continued their tear though the winner’s bracket in grand style. Game 2 was a complete-game victory by Austin Dicharry.
“Pitching was the overall key to our success; our starters went at least five innings every game. That’s unheard of,” Pintard offered.
Overall, an impressive undefeated streak of seven victories marching towards to the title — the final being a 1-0 thriller over Kenai (Alaska) Peninsula Oilers. Mitch Mormann picked up the win.
“During that last game, we had so much confidence that we just knew we were going to win it. There was no question,” said Dave Pintard, ’Sters assistant coach … and, um, Bill’s younger brother.
And while in Wichita, the ’Sters made time – like they’ve done for the last 18 years – to visit Via Christi Hospital in support of their widely acclaimed Hugs for Cubs Program, helping and touching cancer kids and their families by celebrating life through baseball.
It’s a forever-tribute to Bill’s son, Eric (‘EP 19’) – a much-loved Forester player and coach –who died from a rare form of brain cancer in 2004 at the too-young age of 31.
Launched in 1995, the Hugs for Cubs Program, and Eric’s indomitable spirit, are his lasting legacy.
“Eric was the kid who had the disease where everybody said, ‘We can extend your life but you will never walk again,’ ” said Dr. Fred Kass, Research & Wellness Director, Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. “Years later, he not only was walking but coaching.”
“And Hugs for Cubs is huge, not only for cancer kids and their families, but, I believe, it also changes the concept of baseball for the players,” added Kass – he and wife Sarah were a Forester Host Family to player TJ McGreevy this past season. “In that, they realize that there may be something more important than baseball in life.”
It’s all benevolently meshed into the Forester legacy of community service and giving back to others.
And about this 2011 team’s legacy – well, the elder Pintard believes that ‘this team had something to prove – that they hadn’t played their best baseball yet.’
They certainly picked the right time to do just that.
The Coach showed his faith in them by not picking up some fresh players – as they are allowed to do – for their playoff run.
They were going to finish the season with whom they started. Period.
Pintard, a Los Angeles Angels scout with close ties to its manager, Mike Scioscia, is quick to point out the incredible amount of extra hours made by everyone on the team: the players, all the coaches, support staff and interns to give their best effort.
“As a coaching staff – to a man – that’s why it’s so rewarding. It was a total team effort,” says Pintard, who racked up his astounding 700th win during the regular season.
In addition to the NBC Championship Trophy, three players – Derek Legg (3B), Jeff McNeil (LF), McGreevy (P) were named to the 2011 All-America Team.
And the 77th NBC Manager of the Year Award?
Yes, this time a run-away: Bill Pintard, who proudly wears No. 19 (you know why).
So, congrats to Coach Pintard, ’Ster Nation and Hugs for Cubs for leading another inspirational season.
‘Santa Barbara’s Team’ has every reason to be proud – again.