Capital City Travel Baseball:
Where the Elite Meet to
Travel baseball, also known as "travel ball,"
represents a form of competitive youth baseball that has grown enormously in popularity in
the past 20 years.
Conversely, its rise in popularity parallels the
decline of past top-echelon baseball programs, most notably Junior American Legion, which
once dominated summer baseball among the 16-18 age group.
While old perceptions die slowly, today's
reality is this: if your son, grandson, nephew or next door neighbor aspires to play
professional baseball, or even collegiate baseball, his chances improve significantly by
performing on a competitive team. Today, that likely means travel baseball.
Green of Rocklin personifies the ultimate
travel baseball player from Northern California. For the second summer in a row, the Jesuit
High School shortstop said goodbye to coaches and teammates to play in competitive
tournaments with a Beaumont-based team, the Texas Sun Devils.
Sun Devils, whose team expenses are paid by a Texas patron, played in a number of competitive
tournaments this summer, including the prestigious East Cobb 18 and under (18U) and 17U
tournaments in Marietta, Georgia. The team just concluded the BCS tournament in Fort Myers,
Florida, finishing as winners of the 17U National Championship sponsored by Perfect Game USA
In between, Green sandwiched individual showcase
events, including the PG National Showcase in Fort Myers, Florida and the 18U Tournament of
Stars tryouts sponsored by USA Baseball at its Training Center in Cary, North Carolina. All
of these tournaments afforded Green the ultimate opportunity to "be noticed" by a large
number of pro and collegiate scouts.
Zach Green (above) on last
year's 16U USA Baseball team. Photo
courtesy of the Green family.
Last summer, Green performed at a similar pace, culminating his
experience by becoming just the 15th player from the Sacramento
area to be selected to one of the prestigious USA
Baseball teams.* Green and the other 19 members of the USA
Baseball 16U team competed in the COPABE Pan Am 'AA' 16U Youth Championships in Mexico and
swept the tournament, defeating teams from Cuba, Brazil,
Panama, the Dominican Republic and Mexico in the Gold Medal game. Green batted .500, homered
twice and doubled twice for a Ruthian-like OPS of 1.845, solidifying his growing reputation
as one the world's elite players.
In 2010, Green also represented the West in the
2010 Area Codes Games, the granddaddy of the national showcase events celebrating its
25th year this summer. Despite a conflicting travel schedule preventing
him from attending this year's tryouts, the 6'3" 205-pound Green was selected to this year's
West team based on last year's performance. In August, he will compete in his second Area
Codes Games, which is nearly as rare as a unicorn sighting.
His life is comparable in some respects to that
of a minor league ballplayer, except for the long, uncomfortable bus rides, miserable food,
and dingy hotels. Instead, Green benefits from all-expense paid travel, while often living
with a host family in those cities where the tournaments are held.
As a result of his elite travel ball schedule,
Green is befriending and competing against young men from across the United States, while
honing his baseball skills to the sharpest point. The downside is that his parents Kym and
Jesse Green were unable to see their son take one swing this summer due to their work
As with most high school players competing at
this ultra-elite level, Zach Green has already made a commitment to a Division I college
scholarship offer from Oregon State University. What sets Green apart from most "early
commits" is that he accepted his offer in the fall of his sophomore year.
Make that über-elite.
One could make the case that Zach Green was "discovered" by another
ultimate travel-baller, Andrew Susac, who was drafted this year
as a catcher out of Oregon State in the second round of Major League Baseball's First Year Player
Draft by the San Francisco Giants.
Four years ago, when Susac was a junior at Jesuit High and a rising star in
Northern California baseball, he and several friends were working out at the RBI batting
facility in Loomis (no longer in operation). Also watching the workout was Andrew's
Susac, who has been integrally involved in his nephew's
career like a second father. John inquired about the lanky boy hitting in one of the cages, and
asked where he went to high school. When he learned that Green was just a
7th grader, Johnny Susac went into hyper-drive, which is not uncommon when
the subject pertains to baseball.
At that point in his life, John Susac had
devoted umpteen hours to the development of his nephew. After school Andrew and younger
brother Matt were supervised by grandmother Susac, but often they went next door to Uncle
John's house to play catch and workout in his garage in the winter.
Seeing Andrew's enormous athletic potential, and
perhaps more importantly the desire to excel, John developed what he calls a "Rambo workout"
routine that helped catapult Andrew Susac into becoming one of the premier college catchers
Recognizing the importance of a catcher's "pop
time"—the time it takes for a catcher to receive the ball from the pitcher and throw it down
to second base—Uncle Johnny conjured a drill where he fastened weights on Andrew's ankles and
wrists. Then as the boy was crouched in a catcher's position he would receive the
throw, rotate his feet and cock his arm in this unique athletic
movement known only to catchers and do it fifty times. Then John would remove the
weights and repeat the activity. They would go on to another round of fifty-on,
then fifty-off. And do it again. And again. Until he could do it as easily as pouring a
box of corn flakes.
John Susac also filled a metal bat with
sand and lead, requiring his protégé to swing the weighted bat against a boxer's punching bag
to develop strength in the wrists and forearms. He developed this routine, which
also incorporated jumping rope and other aerobic exercises, after reading sports
journals and talking training tips with baseball experts.
When his brother Nick
Susac picked up the boys
from baka or grandma's, they'd
often go out with dad for a round of complementary workouts.
Jesuit head coach Joe Potulny marvels at the
Susac's story, offering this insight: "Maybe you could even say, for this day and age,
that they (Nick and John) were rare by being maybe even too tough on Andrew."
He counters by adding that Nick Susac never displayed a "homer-dad" attitude challenging
the coach with, "...my kid never does anything wrong, nothing's his fault: he's a good
player." If anything, it was the opposite attitude with Potulny.
When Andrew Susac performed at the elite high
school showcase events—many of the same ones Green performed in the past two summers—his "pop
times" of 1.76 seconds set tournament records and elicited eye-popping stares from college
recruiters and big league scouts who knew that the average major league catcher delivers
the ball on average in two seconds. This infinitesimal time difference could mean a pennant:
literally. Just ask the New York Yankees to weigh the value of Red Sox pinch runner Dave
Robert's stolen base in the ninth inning of Game Four of the 2004 American League
Championship Series. A catcher with Andrew Susac's "pop time" probably nails Roberts at
second base and propels the Yankees to another World Series.
In partnership, John and older brother Nick
Susac coached the boys in Woodcreek Little League, where they won their league four of six
years. This gave the Susac's the right to manage the All-Star teams, which honed their
competitive tournament experience. When Andrew was 14, their Woodcreek team was one win away
from going to the Junior Little League World Series.
Given the insight into running a tournament
baseball program, the Susacs formed their own travel team, the Woodcreek Lobos for 12 and
under players. Knowing little about starting a travel team, they consulted with
Commisioner, and were surprised to learn it was Jesuit High baseball coach Chris Fahey, who by then was known
as a "travel team guru."
In the early 1990s, Fahey played on one of the
area's earliest travel baseball teams, the Sacramento Solons.^ Shortly after, Fahey was chosen to manage the
Jesuit High freshman team. At season's end, one of the parents suggested Chris should start a
travel team providing the Jesuit players with a competitive option. He did and called them
the Sacramento Capitols. Starting with a 15 and under (15U) team, in subsequent years the
Capitols eventually fielded 15U, 16U and 17U teams.
To read a
sidebar about the area's first travel team,
the Sacramento Solons, click
through. Or wait until the end of this story where you'll
find a link to the Solons story.
"At that time, everybody played Legion, Big
League or whatever, and travel ball was this unknown," Fahey says.
In short order, Fahey found himself recruiting
high-school aged players who eventually went on to major league careers (like
Vallejo's C.C. Sabathia, now with the New
York Yankees and Woodland's Dustin Pedroia of the Boston
Red Sox). The Capitols became one of the top AAU programs in the country, finishing in the
top five in their age division three times, including runner-up to a team from East Cobb,
Georgia in the 17U division in 1997. That team, called the Capitol City Bombers, included the
In 1999, tired of the administrative
requirements of travel ball, Fahey received a call from Rob Bruno. The founder of the premier 16U team in Northern California—the NorCal
All-Stars--wanted to merge the Capitols/Bombers 15U team managed by Fahey into his program.
Fahey agreed. Free from administrative minutiae, he served as field manager of the 15U NorCal
team, which included another future major leaguer, Santa Clara's Troy
Tulowitski of the Colorado
Fahey, newly married and facing burnout,
"retired" from AAU club ball, but stayed on as a coach with the Jesuit program. In time, he
would play a key role in Andrew Susac's development when the young man entered the Marauder's
As a 14-year old, Andrew had been invited to play for the El Dorado
Hills Vipers, a team founded in 2001 and run by Dan Sozzi. The Vipers, which featured some of the top 16-18-year-old players in the area,
were playing a loose schedule of games against other travel teams and junior college clubs. When
14-year-old Susac and 13-year-old Jimmy
Bosco (himself a future Jesuit player), joined
the program, they were immediately forced to "play up" in age like few ever have in this
Sozzi remembers both boys more than held their
own in a game against the Merced JC players, who were five to six years older. "Jimmy got
several base hits. Andrew got couple of base hits and threw a runner out," remembers Sozzi.
"They played just like everybody else did."
Adds proud Uncle John Susac, "Andrew didn't look
like a 14-year-old behind the plate."
Sozzi, a banker with Golden Pacific Bank, told
Susac that he expected the young man to behave with the maturity of an 18-year-old. "I didn't
care how he played, but I did care about how he conducted himself and acted around his
When Sozzi hears the term "travel ball," he
scrunches his face and quotes Rob Bruno: "Travel ball is Little League on wheels, because
it's often more about the business side than the kids. And 'junior' has to play year-round
because of a team's need to meet the bottom line." Sozzi prefers to label his team "college
development baseball." Ironically, Susac and Bosco got an early dose of it before stepping on
the Jesuit High School campus.
The Vipers reputation quickly spread as more top
players flocked to Sozzi's team, partially because they had earned an automatic invitation by
USA Baseball to compete in the 16U Championships held each June in Arizona. Appearance in
that showcase has proven to be an ideal way for a young player to earn an invitation to the
16U National Team Trials held at USA Baseball's National Training Complex in Cary, North
The consensus top high school player in Sacramento in 2011
Davis of Elk Grove High, who was selected Most
Valuable Player (MVP) by both the Sacramento
Bee and BaseballSacramento.com. Davis
accelerated his career development by playing for a travel team clear across town: the
Roseville Red Dogz.
The Red Dogz were the brainchild
Blaser, the father of Nick and Dalton, who, like
Davis, dominated this past high school season (See
BaseballSacramento's All-Capitol Team). The Blaser boys led
Roseville High School to its first Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Championship since
Mark, a former New York Yankee farmhand, formed
the Red Dogz in 2002, originally as a way for the Orangevale Pony League to prepare for its
annual Memorial Day series against neighboring Citrus Heights Pony. The Blasers (Nick 8,
Dalton 7) along with Tyler Kuresa (Rosemont/University of Oregon) formed the nucleus of the team. In
subsequent years, Mark Blaser and Tyler's dad Suki Kuresa entered the team in travel team
Roseville Red Dogz after
winning a 13U USSSA tournament. Back row left to right: Coach Jim Peska, Beau Smith
(Roseville), Shane Rae (Casa Robles), Tyler Kuresa, (Oakmont), Mark Blaser,
Manager, John Peska (Woodcreek), Anthony Roberts (Roseville), Kevin Risso
(Oakmont), Suki Kuresa, coach. Bottom row left to right: Alex Chaveria (Woodcreek),
JD Davis (Elk Grove), John Silva (Roseville), Nick Blaser (Roseville), Freddie
Cargile (Del Oro), Kory Grove (Oakmont), Cooper Johnson (Del
courtesy of Mark Blaser.
In 2005, the Red Dogz looked beyond their
Roseville-based borders and invited Sacramento's top talent to play with them, which is when
Davis joined the team. Blaser made sure to keep it affordable by charging players only their
share of the tournament entry fee (plus a few dollars for baseballs). The Dogz traveled to
Super Series and USSSA-sponsored tournaments in Southern California and Hawaii, claiming
titles along the way.
In 2007, the Red Dogz compiled a 45-1 record,
earning the #1 ranking in the country in the 14U division by Super Series. The following
season as a 15U team, they won seven championships and twice came in second. Over the spring
and summer, the Red Dogz amassed a 61-4 record. After the 2008 season, Blaser disbanded the
team, as most of the players had moved on to high school ball and older travel
J.D. Davis, for instance has played for the
Vipers two seasons. This summer he and Nick
Blaser reunited on ProPlayerBaseball's
Collegiate team, while Dalton Blaser plays in the
organization's lower age division.
With his sophomore season at Jesuit behind him, Andrew Susac suddenly
emerged on the national radar at the East Cobb tournament while playing with the Vipers. John and
Nick Susac coached the Vipers 17U team, which featured the Bee's MVP that
Waldron (Golden Sierra High).
In two games, Andrew blasted three home runs,
including a grand slam, and equally impressed behind the plate. Coach John Susac suddenly
found himself fielding comments from college recruiters and pro scouts poking their head
inside the fence wondering "who's your catcher?" not realizing he was also the kid's
Teammate Jimmy Bosco was tearing up it as well.
He had just learned he made the NorCal Area Codes, while Susac hadn't made the cut. With the
Viper's team scheduled to play in a San Diego tournament, Bosco's father told the Susacs
Jimmy had received an invitation to play in the Perfect Game Junior National Showcase in San
Bernadino. Nick and John weighed the merits of self-inviting Andrew (and having to pay the
entry fee), as his stock was clearly on the upswing.
John Susac called the PG tournament director,
who mentioned that several colleges had called asking if "the Susac kid is coming." John
sensed the opportunity and enrolled Andrew in the showcase event. Because of his performance
there, Andrew was invited to participate in the Junior Aflac All-American Showcase later that
summer (due to a prior commitment, however, he was unable to attend).
When the Susac's returned home, the mailbox was
bursting with letters from colleges recruiters. "Now, Andrew's profile is skyrocketing," John
Susac says in that unique baseball-speak that is equal parts present tense and
in the Cape Cod League All-Star Game
July 28, 2010 at Fenway Park.
Photo courtesy of BeachSpikes
Where Andrew Susac was gaining national
attention for his catching prowess, he was playing under the large shadow cast
Stassi of Yuba City, the consensus finest
catcher on the West Coast (not to mention Susac's home market).
Stassi, as is widely known, hails from a
baseball family. His father, Jim, was drafted by San Francisco, rising to Triple-A in the
Giants organization. His father and uncle played professional ball, and the family lineage
goes all the way back to Myril Hoag (Sacramento High) of the 1930s-era New York
Stassi took over the Yuba City baseball program
in time to coach his three sons: Brock, Max and Jake. Together the Stassi family powered the
Honkers to four consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division III titles, an amazing run that came
to a close at Sacramento City College's Union Stadium last June when Stassi retired. Squarely
in the middle of this amazing run was Amazin' Max, clearly the best of the Stassi
Max Stassi, Stockton Ports, 2011.
When Nick Susac saw Max play as a
7th grader he thought, "That kid's going to be a major leaguer:
he had the walk, the talk, the work ethic. He's off
the charts. He deserves everything he gets because he's that good."
Entering his junior year, Max had already made
the Bee's All-Metro team twice (perhaps the only high schooler ever to make the team all four
years in the city's history), played in the Area Codes games and more importantly already had
committed to a scholarship offer from UCLA.
Despite this, UCLA was one of the dozen schools
that sent Andrew Susac a recruitment letter. And when John and Nick plotted a strategy to
visit the schools that summer they arranged to visit UCLA as well, knowing Andrew would never
go there. As John noted, "We liked UCLA a lot. But they already had Stassi. It would be
stupid to send your kid there: the two best catchers on the west coast."
Andrew Susac was extremely fortunate to have an
uncle with such unbridled devotion, energy and support. It also enabled the Susacs to avoid
NCAA recruiting limitations, because when John called (or fielded a college call) to arrange
a recruiting visit it didn't count against the school's limited number of contacts with a
parent and child.
The Susacs lit out on the ultimate west coast
college baseball recruitment road trip, visiting coaches and facilities at UCLA, UC Irvine,
Fullerton State, Long Beach State, Pepperdine, UC San Diego and San Diego State, plus both
Arizona schools. Having family in Huntington Beach gave them a base of operations in Southern
They interviewed with the coaching staffs of
some of the finest baseball programs in the country, several of which routinely play in the
College World Series. What the Susacs didn't realize at the time was that they were thrust in
the middle of a coaching carousel that would shake the foundation of SoCal
Fullerton Head Coach George
Horton, whose Titan team won the CWS in 2004, was
being lured by University of Oregon to restart its baseball program after a 26-year hiatus.
Although the Susacs didn't meet with Horton during their visit to Fullerton (instead they
talked with assistant coach Jason Gill), it was during the
recruiting visit with UC Irvine and head coach Dave
Serrano when they realized "something was
weird." Unbeknown to them, Serrano was in discussions with Fullerton State to replace Horton,
who had yet to announce he was leaving for Oregon (Ironically, Serrano found himself in the
same situation this summer before announcing he'd taken the job at
Meantime, schools were offering Andrew Susac
scholarship offers on the spot. He heeded the advice of his two ardent advisers and deferred
making a choice. Instead, they returned home to Roseville, more confident and savvy about
college baseball recruitment, and began digesting the results of their whirlwind
In addition, Nick began looking into the highly
touted Oregon State program, which had won back-to-back CWS titles in 2006-2007. At first,
John pooh-poohed the notion of Northwest baseball mostly because of the rainy weather.
Ironically that fall, Andrew was invited to participate in a private showcase at Pleasant
Grove High which had been arranged for Oregon's new assistant coach, Gill (formerly of
On a day when the wind blew in from center field
and few players hit home runs with metal bats, John Susac remembers Andrew grabbed a wood bat
and hit nine balls over the fence during his batting session, prompting an enthusiastic Gill
to say "You need to come up to Oregon."
In setting up the Northwest recruiting trip the
Susacs arranged a visit with Oregon State as well. Andrew's Jesuit
teammate Danny Hayes was also
recruited by the Ducks, so he joined them on the Interstate 5 excursion. Both schools tried
to lure the teens on campus on a Saturday when they would be hosting Pac-10 Conference
football games. John Susac says they rejected the recruitment ploy, instead insisting on
touring and visiting the campuses in mid-week without all the head-spinning
They visited the Oregon campus first, and were
shown the impressive facilities at Autzen Stadium, including the impressive suite owned by
the school's biggest benefactor, Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike. Ironically, the school's
baseball facilities were being still being constructed. But after visiting with Horton and
staff for three hours, John Susac remembers, "At that point Andrew and Danny were going to be
Ducks. We said, 'There's no need to go to OSU.'"
But they reconsidered and drove to Corvallis,
where they met with Oregon State head coach Pat Casey. If nothing more than to say congratulations on winning back-to-back
titles, Nick Susac added.
During the visit with Casey, the Susacs heard a
different spiel from the previous schools. Casey told Susac and Hayes that he would make
them each "a better man and a better human being" by encouraging them to do community
service, like visiting the elderly.
Casey's heartfelt pitch resonated inside Andrew
Susac. "I'm not saying that I felt like the other guys (head coaches and recruiters were
bull-tossers), but I felt like he (Casey) was being real."
The Beavers also proffered a superior financial offer to Oregon's, which was
hamstrung by funding a startup program, swoosh or no swoosh. "They gave Andrew
an unbelievable scholarship at
Oregon State," enthuses Uncle John.
Again, the Susacs held off on a decision, wisely
consulting with Sacramento baseball people they trusted, including Sacramento City College
head coach, Andy McKay.
Over the course of their investigation and
research, the Susacs "got a wealth of knowledge," admits John, who served as the front man
throughout the process. "I felt we made a phenomenal decision after looking through a
(boat)load of information."
With an OSU scholarship commitment in hand, Andrew Susac was free to
play and excel at the game of baseball. Susac, Bosco and Hayes led Jesuit to Section Division I
Championships in 2008-2009. During their three-year varsity career, Jesuit went 74-23, while Andrew
hit .406 with 82 runs driven in, 23 doubles, four triples and 16 home runs. Runners rarely
attempted to steal on his quick release and cannon arm, and when they did Susac amassed a
75-percent caught-stealing record.
Given those impressive statistics and two
All-Metro selections by the Bee, Max Stassi still loomed larger than ever in the Sacramento
Valley, winning the Bee's Most Valuable Player awards the same two years.
In 2009, the Oakland A's drafted Stassi in the
4th Round. His adviser Brodie
Scoffield of Legacy Sports advised Stassi to
hold out for "first round money." He did and fetched a $1.5 million signing
So, while Max began a pro career, Andrew took
the collegiate route. But first the two became friends as they performed together in numerous
summer national showcase events, including the Aflac All-American Game and the Area Codes
Andrew Susac, above, catching in
the 2008 Aflac All-American Game.
Photo courtesy of the Susac family.
Last summer Susac solidified his reputation as one of the top amateur catchers
in the country by being named the number five prospect in the Cape Cod League by Baseball
America. "It provides a big-time win for your confidence," Andrew
admitted. He was selected to the Cape Cod League All-Star game
after batting .290 with six doubles, five home runs and 15 RBI in 29 games for the Falmouth
While listening to John Susac expound on his active involvement in
Andrew's story, it's hard to imagine the man is talking about a nephew and not his own son. One
wonders what sibling rivalry might exist between father Nick and uncle John, sons of Croatian
immigrants. Nick Susac shrugs off such thoughts; as a kid who spoke only Croatian until age five,
he had bigger concerns
The Susac brothers' close-knit family
environment meant that if John saw something he could provide for Nick's children, he just
did it. If that meant coaching Andrew on catching, "I'm totally okay with that," Nick
admitted. John jokes that when OSU coach Casey spoke at a Northern California fundraiser not
long ago he admitted that for awhile he thought John Susac was actually Andrew's
"When (John) gets ahold of something," Nick says
about his younger brother, "he doesn't let up on it. It's pedal to the metal. Honestly, I'm
Conversely, Nick finds himself providing
guidance and having fun while hanging out with John's son, Anthony, who is
When asked to pinpoint what made his son excel
at baseball, Nick Susac refers first to the family's deeply-ingrained work ethic. He recalls
that his immigrant father frowned on his children playing athletic games, which he believed
were a waste of time. Unless, of course, Nick chose to play his father's favorite sport,
soccer, which he did at Jesuit.
Nick Susac, who has coached and observed coaches
working with highly talented athletes, believes success is a "three-potion cocktail." The key
ingredients are: God-given talent; a strong desire to succeed; and the fortitude and
discipline to put in the work necessary to accomplish whatever dream a child may entertain.
And more work.
Jesuit head coach Joe Potulny credits John Susac with creating the
"I-5 connection," which saw Andrew Susac and Danny Hayes accepting scholarships to play baseball
for the Beavers in the Northwest. Following them was pitcher Dan Child (Jesuit), and Jake
Rodriguez (Elk Grove High) both members of the
USA Baseball 16U team.
read the biographies on every player from the Sacramento area selected to
the USA Baseball teams, click through.
There is also a link at the end of this
John Susac is also credited with focusing the
Beavers' laser light on Zach Green. After touting Green for the umpteenth time
Lees, the OSU recruiter, Lees asked Susac if he
could place Green on a traveling team where he could watch him perform at the Junior National
Showcase. Susac arranged for Zach to play on the Vipers. At the tournament, Green's play
impressed, and Lee said "'I want him.' It was that fast," remembers Zach's mother,
The Greens accepted Oregon State's invitation to
visit the Corvallis campus. "We were so green, we had no idea of what the (recruiting) rules
were," says Kym Green, not immediately
recognizing the word play.
Up to this point, Jesse
Green, who was then employed in the banking
industry, had gently guided his son toward considering a Stanford education. Zach had already
spoken with Stanford's baseball recruitment coordinator, Dean
Stotz, a McClatchy High and Stanford grad. Stotz,
who has coached at Stanford for 35 years and is now associate head coach, talked with Green
for 15 minutes. During their conversation, he never spoke of baseball. Instead, he focused
exclusively on the importance of academics and preparing for a life beyond athletics, relates
Mrs. Green. Stotz also reminded Zach about the university's policy of not making scholarship
offers until spring of the student's junior year.
During their visit to Oregon State, the Greens,
like the Susacs before them, fell under the homespun spell of the head coach. Pat Casey
reminded them of Jesuit's Coach Potulny.
"I don't think it's an act," offers Kym. "I
really believe they (OSU coaches) are more concerned with the kind of man Zach becomes than
the type of baseball player he becomes. Yet, I know his (Casey's) job is to bring in another
college world series."
Zach immediately felt comfortable on the
Corvallis campus, plus he was also impressed with the coaching staff.
"The coaches there are amazing," Green said earlier this summer during the high school
playoffs. "They're going to prepare me not only for college, but hopefully later in my career,
to go up to the majors. They have a good ballclub (at OSU). They just make you
Casey concluded their visit by showing them a
DVD of the highlights from his two CWS championship titles. "It was the best marketing tool a
school could ever have," Mrs. Green admits.
Zach Green of Jesuit homers in a rain-soaked 2011 playoff game at
American River College.
When they arrived home, Zach sat down and made a
list of pros and cons of the Oregon State offer. Despite this being the sole scholarship
offer he had received, Zach's list weighed in favor of committing early to the Beavers. When
he accepted in the fall of his sophomore year, Zach Green—who had yet to play an inning of
varsity high school baseball—had become the earliest commit in Oregon State baseball
recruitment history, according to John Susac.
While Green still has one more year of high school before going to
OSU, Andrew Susac has two more years of eligibility there. He was a draft-eligible sophomore in
2011 because while in elementary school his parents switched school districts, requiring Andrew and
brother Matt to retake a class.
In spring 2011, after leading the Beavers in
hitting and most power numbers early in his sophomore season, Susac broke the hamate bone in
his left hand. At first, OSU coaches thought he could resume play after resting the injury,
but Susac and OSU teammate Jake Rodriguez (who ironically sustained the same injury days
earlier) returned to Sacramento for hand surgery at the UC Davis Medical
Told to expect the normal recovery period of 4-6
weeks, Susac continued working out and returned to action after one month. He now admits it
was premature, and probably should have waited another week. When he resumed his catching
duties, the pounding on his injured glove hand took a toll on his hitting, yet he still
finished the season high on the list of Oregon State hitters.
Vanderbilt's slugger Aaron Westlake
watches this home run in the 2011 Super Regionals. OSU catcher Andrew Susac
watches from behind. Westlake, of Redding, CA, homered three times in the
game, as Vandy earned a trip to the College World
The Beavers traveled to Nashville and were
swept by host Vanderbilt, which earned one of the elite eight spots in the College World
On June 7, the second day of the MLB First-Year
Player Draft, the San Francisco Giants selected Susac in the second round, fulfilling a dream
for the lifelong Giant fan. His adviser Brodie Scoffield told him to expect negotiations to
go "down to the wire" around the August 15 deadline.
Talk immediately focused on the probability of
Susac signing with a big-time bonus, as the Giants' Rookie of the Year and World Series
catcher Buster Posey continues rehabbing from ankle surgery following a serious collision at
the plate last May.
The Susacs are hopeful that Andrew is offered
"first-round money" just like Stassi, who is now one of Andrew's friends and texting
Susac has continued honing his catching skills this summer. He's also been
working out with Tony Padilla of American River College,
who throws batting practice and provides hitting instruction. "I can't say enough
about Andrew the person," says Padilla, who went all through school with Andrew's father.
"Ability wise, he's off the chart. Person-wise, he's unbelievable. He doesn't big-time anybody.
He doesn't have an ego. And his work ethic is incredible."
Tony Padilla (right) gives Andrew Susac hitting instruction
during one of their summer workouts at American River
What happens if the Giants' offer doesn't meet
their expectations? "Got to do what's best for me," Andrew says with the cool delivery of a
FOREX day-trader. "There's no reason to settle if you have another year (of
The young man exudes confidence when he admits
he has always envisioned himself one day becoming a major league catcher.
While some decry the downward spiral of American Legion baseball,
John Susac espouses how showcases, combines and activities like the Area Codes Games are good for
baseball. It enables groups of coaches and recruiters "to get exposure to lots of really good
players. It's one-stop shopping and it fits their schedule from a budget and time standpoint,"
Where the AAU once
dominated travel team tournaments, it has been supplanted by USA Baseball and the burgeoning
No entity personifies the rise in travel team tournaments and select
showcases more than Perfect Game USA of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Founded as a high school
scouting service in the mid-90s, "PG" now sponsors most of the elite events previously cited above.
Recently, it took over the Aflac All-American annual high school all-star
"It's interesting how times have
changed," John Susac admits. "If you keep thinking old school, like 'Somebody will
find you (eventually),' you're going to fall behind."
Backing his beliefs, Susac invited this reporter
to visit a ball field he calls his "Field of Dreams."
About a year ago, while driving through his old
neighborhood (near El Camino Blvd. and Ethan Way) he spied an abandoned Little League field
that was completely overgrown. He lobbied his business partner Dave Williams and brother Nick
to imagine the possibilities. They shared in John's vision.
After securing the rights to revitalize the
field at Babcock Park, they stripped it down to the dirt, regraded it using a laser level,
added a base layer of sand and peat, and then laid 8,400 square feet of the same Bermuda
grass used at Raley Field to fashion what they believe is one of the finest youth baseball
fields in the Sacramento area. To show just how "in to it" they are, the Susacs even got the
River Cats' groundskeepers to help build their pitcher's mound and home plate
The ball field was designed to travel baseball standards (which differ from
those of Little League) to accommodate 9-10 and 11-12 year old competition. The cost to
construct their "field of dreams" came to tens of thousands of dollars; all out of the partners'
What wouldpossibly motivate a trio of
middle-aged men to build such an exclusive youth baseball field? So they had access
to a private practice facility and home diamond for their new 10U and 9U travel teams,
which include Nick Susac's youngest son, Daniel (9) and John's son, Anthony
Two years ago at a pizza party the Susacs told
Chris Fahey they were thinking of starting a new travel team. Fahey offered the use of his
Sacramento Capitols' identity and then agreed to join them as head coach.
"It has probably been the most rewarding and
most fun coaching experience that I've ever had," Fahey admitted. "At that age, the thing I
love is these kids are like sponges; and they've never done any of this."
Fahey says the Capitols' coaching staff, which
includes Nick and John Susac, trains 9 and 10-year olds on the same fielding, running and
hitting drills that are taught at the high school and college level. "It's amazing what kids
can accomplish if you put expectations on them," says Fahey, who no longer coaches baseball
at Jesuit, but serves as the school's Athletic Director.
"We've come full circle," he marvels about the
Nick and John Susac feel similarly, as they're
now doing it "all over again," with the newest wave of Susac baseball
"You'll hear that we're nuts," Nick says with a
chuckle. "And they're not far off."
"We're crazy, but in a good way," John says,
finishing what his brother started once again.
* See our related story
on local ballplayers who have played on USA Baseball
^ See sidebar: The Sacramento
Solons: The Area's First Travel Ball Team