Chad Baum’s first year as head coach for a college baseball program definitely didn’t go as he expected; an 0 – 5 conference record and a season canceled halfway through due to an unpredictable pandemic. This was a year of many firsts for his young, predominantly freshman team.
This was the first year a head coach and conference rival passed away days before the first game of the season.
The 2020 Orange Empire Conference season started out on a sour note with the passing of Baum’s colleague, OCC Head Baseball Coach John Altobelli. Altobelli’s passing rocked the college baseball world leaving the head coaches of the OEC teams without a friend.
This also was the first season for most of Baum’s players in a college uniform under a program with a leadership change.
“It was new to him; it was new for us. You could definitely tell we had some growing pains with each other,” expressed freshman first baseman, Julian Tellez. “Since we were a young team it was a different experience.”
This would also be the first time for everyone in the sports world to have their seasons canceled halfway through do to a global pandemic.
“Obviously it’s very sad what happened, but it was the right thing for our country,” said Baum. “This season was a great experience and I feel like next year will be my first real year. I just got to build upon the things I learned as I transitioned from assistant to head coach.”
The growing pains from transitioning players and coaches would affect the Hornets throughout the season making it difficult to come together to score crucial runs in scoring opportunities despite the team’s impressive .355 on-base percentage. The timing of key hits would be the main issue preventing the Hornets to come back from huge deficits caused by poor pitching.
As a team this year, the Hornets pitching staff displayed a 7.16 overall ERA and the team lost its last six games in a row.
“Obviously I knew that winning was not going to happen right away, but it was a good start because we had a really good freshman crew that really struggled, but had a lot of promise to build upon,” stated Baum.
Despite the constant adversity, the team faced in each game, Baum instilled a unique element of education into his players. He decided the best way to grow his players was to make them better men off the field before becoming better players between the chalk lines.
“I want to help them do things: grow better as a person, as a student and as a baseball player.”
Regardless of the many challenges Baum and his young team faced, the experience was important and memorable.
“The wins and losses could have been better, but everything else was outstanding. From our administration to the players I inherited, to the people that work at Fullerton College, everything was great. It’s a great place to work.”
The players under Baum appreciated the constant time and effort he put in with the player trying to create a winning program from scratch, especially freshman third baseman, Sawyer Chesley.
Although nothing can bring back the 2020 baseball season, the lessons taught by Baum will give the Hornets the upper hand in the next season. The team will have their growing pains out of the way and will know what to expect from each other and know the caliber of a baseball program that Baum runs.
“I learned a lot; more than I ever thought I would,” stated Chesley. “It was a fantastic experience. I’m definitely looking forward to next season and playing for Baum.”