By Tony Adams
Wood bats. Texas heat. Old ball parks. Collegiate players honing their skills, while enjoying their summers.
No, this isn’t the plot line for a sequel to “Summer Catch.” But it is similar in setting.
Welcome to Texas Collegiate League baseball.
The leagues’ mission state is to provide the best summer league experience for the best professional prospects from colleges throughout the country. There are teams in Bryan/College Station (Brazos Valley Bombers), Victoria (Generals), Coppell (Copperheads), Tyler (East Texas PumpJacks), McKinney (Marshals) and Youngsville, La. (Acadiana Cane Cutters) and McKinney (Marshals)
One of its players for the 2016 season is Temple College soon-to-be-sophomore Coby Potvin.
Potvin, a four-year Belton Tiger baseball player who graduated in 2015, had played in 2016 for Craig McMurtry and the Leopards in the outfield. He has taken his skills on the road and was picked up to play for the TCL’s Victoria Generals.
Potvin, a starter with TC this past season, has been in a platoon situation where he splits time between center field and right field. He has split time with Sam Houston State speedster Mac Odom, St. Mary’s Bryce Brandl, Weatherford College’s Chace Sachet and Texas A&M Corpus Christi’s Nick Anderson.
In the opportunity he has had to play, he has played well defensively. He is still getting acclimated to wood bats, hitting .179 with four runs, seven hits, hit by four pitches through 13 games and 39 at bats. He has one of the lowest strikeout numbers on the team with just two strikeouts and has no errors in the field in 92 innings played.
“It’s an adjustment to go from collegiate ball to summer league,” Potvin said. “But the biggest difference is the morning routine.”
According to Potvin, the team works out in the morning. Some of the team relaxes afterwards. Other members play nine holes of golf before reporting to the ballpark between 3-4 p.m. for batting practice and game preparations.
Victoria is a unique place to play a ball game. The team plays its home games at Riverside Stadium, which also is the home of the University of Houston-Victoria. The venerable stadium was built in 1946 and was the former home of the Double A Victoria Rosebuds (affiliated with Brooklyn from 1957-1959, Detroit in 1960 and Baltimore in 1961) and Victoria Toros in the Texas League. The field brings a unique viewing experience, with a capacity of roughly 1,500 and nightly promotions that gives the fans the experience of professional baseball with a collegiate feel to it. The field was natural grass before artificial turf was installed for the 2016 season.
Although the players concentrate on the craft of baseball on the field, the fun off of the field helps bond the team. The bus trips can be tough, but the off the field experience is what makes a team gel together.
“With all teams, you have the time where you get to know the team,” Potvin said. “But this is a great bunch of guys that like to have fun.”
Summer leagues have been good to Belton players. Former Tiger and current TCU starting pitcher Jared Janczak played in the Coastal Plains League in the Carolinas in 2015 and watched the College World Series on his phone. He parlayed his experience into a successful redshirt freshman campaign in Fort Worth. Chase Sortor is also playing collegiate summer league baseball and hit a grand slam homer this past weekend. Potvin is looking for a successful summer to raise his marketability after his days at Temple College.
“Victoria has been a good experience so far and I am looking forward to the rest of the season,” Potvin said.