CSUSM Club Baseball debuts in Division II

Led by Benson, Stoops Cougars look to World Series


Cody Cook

Top row, left to right: President Chris Benson, Ryan Haap and Ryder Logan Bottom row, left to right: Brandon Gulloti and Vice President David Diaz

Amy Chastain, Sports Editor

Baseball players in Southern California are blessed. Picturesque blue skies and 85 degree weather serve as a typical backdrop to practice and games. With that kind of weather, what baseball player wouldn’t want to be out playing the game they love?

“We live in California … of course guys want to come out. They’re itching to play baseball,” CSUSM Club Baseball President Chris Benson said.

And come out they do. Twice a week, 22 players and 3 coaches practice and square up against club teams from the likes of Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount University.

As a former baseball player, Benson saw the need for club baseball at CSUSM and founded the team in October 2014. A lot of guys have the goal to play college baseball, but cannot play for the university team for a variety of reasons.

“[Our team] gives them the option to come out here and get the work in and continue the game” almost year-round, Benson said. “Our ultimate goal is to go out and be the No. 1 club team in the nation. We want to go win the World Series right away.”

Without scholarship or monetary incentives, club baseball players play for the love of the game.

“Guys are solely out here to play baseball and play for each other,” Benson said. “We’re basically a family off the field.”

Center fielder Ryder Logan added, “We all came from the same [mindset]. We didn’t think we were going to play baseball again. We started playing again and we all came together.”

His head coach echoed the same sentiment.

“Obviously I love baseball and I just recently got done playing and wanted to stay involved … I couldn’t pass [this opportunity] up,” Lee Stoops said.

Under the guidance of Stoops and volunteer coaches Ansel Grisenti and Johnny Marginnis, the Cougars train for their first year of competition in Division II of The National Club Baseball Association.

“We take these practices seriously. We make sure we’re on time. We get every single second out of it that we can,” said Stoops, a former baseball player for the New Mexico Trainrobbers.

They compete in District VIII-South, which also hosts Arizona State University, University of San Diego, Grand Canyon University and Bristol University.

“To be honest, our toughest matchup is ourselves. We have the potential to be really good or we can really hurt ourselves. It’s really just playing against ourselves and doing what we are capable of doing,” Stoops said.

The Cougars also compete against Division I talent, such as the University of Southern California (USC). On Feb. 6, CSUSM took on USC Club Baseball. They split the two-game series with a Cougar win in game one but a USC comeback in game two.

As for the game plan for conference rivals like Arizona State University, the Cougars have one plan in mind.

“We’ll play them just like we do any other team: with the utmost respect for their program, but knowing at the same time that we are the more talented team,” Benson said.