Nic Anderson-Vine has not taken the archetypal path to a division I baseball career. Originally from Umina Beach, New South Wales, Australia, the outdoor player was raised in the nation’s dense, evolving baseball culture – “It’s not big by any means,” he said, “but the people in baseball are very passionate about it” – and represented his country at the youth level.
But he knew he had to come to America to take the next step, and started at Iowa Central Community College in 2018.
“When it comes to roads home,” Anderson-Vine said, “there are none.”
As atypical as his chosen path was, it was the right one to get him the attention of Cal State Bakersfield coach Jeremy Beard. Australia to Bakersfield has actually been a veritable pipeline in recent years, with Beard’s affiliation with a former teammate Down Under that has given him the inside track on some of the country’s best young players. And Beards decade plus coaching in the JUCO ranks means he stays well connected there as well.
This created what Beard calls a “triangle” of insights that drove the CSUB’s signing of Anderson-Vine, even as he recovered from an Achilles injury that had hampered his 2020 season in Iowa.
More generally, this year’s class of newcomers – who come from Bakersfield, Delano and Fresno, yes, but also Coquitlam, Honolulu and Umina Beach – are symbolic of the program’s desire to strengthen its local roots, while, encouraged by extended scholarship funding, away for hidden talents. This is what Beard calls “the short arm” and the “long arm.”
“We were in a position where we had to rely a lot more locally, where we saved money,” Beard said. “But now, with some increased dollar amounts, we have been able to stretch our arm even into other countries to find the players we need to compete in the Big West Conference.”
A recent European Under-18 champion when he arrived at the CSUB, Cody Hendriks also represents the reach of the “long arm”. For the Dutch-Canadian infielder, whose American sports-loving father introduced his sister to softball and him to baseball when he grew up in the Netherlands, playing here is the culmination of a long-term goal.
“It was a big, big dream for me, to travel to the United States and play baseball,” Hendriks said. “I always wanted to go DI, play for a nice school, but at times it did not seem super realistic.”
His vision came into sharp focus when he started at Okotox Dawgs Academy in Alberta, just south of Calgary. On a trip to visit college baseball programs, Hendriks immediately fell in love with the atmosphere he encountered at CSUB. Fast forward to 2021, and he’s fishing for playing time in Roadrunner’s spring season.
To be sure, Anderson-Vine and Hendriks remain out of the CSUB list. Roadrunners has 32 players from California, including eight from Kern County. A key element of Beard’s local strategy is the program’s connection with Bakersfield College and its coach Tim Painton. Pitcher Gabe Ulloa is one of several Roadrunner newcomers from the Renegades program, where he said it feels like Beard is “just a phone call away”.
Ulloa, originally from Delano, has found that many teammates, regardless of origin, can connect to his experiences in smaller cities.
“You get to hear their stories,” said Ulloa, “you get to hear everything they’ve been through, and how their city was, and it’s almost related to where I come from.”
He summed up the composition of the clubhouse with an analogy: “Not everyone has the same cards to play with – they were dealt different hands.”
Beard said he is very focused on cultivating this kind of diversity of backgrounds in his clubhouse, and deepening a culture he calls “the first thing we have in mind for this program,” while maintaining their local ties. He is targeting a number of areas around the country that were previously inaccessible to Roadrunners – Orange County, Pacific Northwest, Arizona and more. The start of the signing period on November 10, which included the signing of Oregon two-way player Ky Hoskinson, indicates that he is making progress in at least one of these regions.
“We’ve never had the opportunity to get into any of these areas,” Beard said, “and since I think our reputation and culture have improved dramatically in recent years, I think the secret is to get out that this is a great place to be. “
Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.