The California Winter League: Featuring Tito Fuentes Jr. and Megan Castellucci

There is something certainly special about January baseball – it’s a little more special when you are sitting in Palm Springs watching over 200 baseball players all wanting to keep their dreams alive. A few weeks ago, Napa Silverados Field Manager, Tito Fuentes Jr. and Assistant General Manager, Megan Castellucci visited the California Winter League in Palm Springs, California, looking for talent to round the Silverados roster. This is a recap from Megan and her experience at the Winter League.

The California Winter League is the premier instructional league in the nation and provides players with the opportunity to be trained by former Major League Baseball players and current professional coaches and managers. The league runs from January 25th until February 19th.

The California Winter League has instructors and coaches from the Frontier League, American Association, Can-Am League, Atlantic League, United Shore Professional Baseball League and the Pacific Association. All of them come with contracts in hand, ready to sign players who they believe can make an impact on their respective organizations. In addition to the instructors, the Winter League features MLB pro scouts from various organizations such as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals to name a few.

In nine seasons, the California Winter League has helped 500+ players get professional playing opportunities. This season, over 200 players reported to the league.

Tito and I were present for MLB Scout Day and the first day of team practice.

“This was my first time at the California Winter League and there were a lot of diamonds in the rough out there. I went down with really no idea what to expect. I saw a lot of talented players and some great baseball,” said Fuentes.

We reported to Palm Springs Stadium on Tuesday morning at eight o’clock sharp. It was a gorgeous 70-degree day and we were ready to get the show on the road. Both of us had this insane baseball energy, mind you, it’s only January; there are still several months left in the offseason. Needless to say, we caught the baseball bug pretty early after we left Palm Springs. Something we both figured would happen!

While I walked in with a seasoned veteran of the game, I was entirely out of my element. In sports I have come to realize the phrase “be comfortable, being uncomfortable” is basically the expectation and it could not be more true especially in an instance like this one. Being an Assistant General Manager is much different than any role I have tackled in my career thus far. My days are ever changing and never the same, with this specific moment being a first in a lot of categories. I am usually strong and pretty confident but this situation was entirely new to me. Player development and scouting was never something I had ever done, nor had ever thought about doing. I’m pretty positive that I had rookie jitters; actually, there is no doubt about it. I never had to walk on a field and begin to evaluate and look for talent to round out a roster. Thank goodness I had Tito! It got to the point that before I watched bullpens, I had to call my brother Mark, who is a catcher for the University of Montevallo in Alabama, to talk to him about what to look for in pitchers. After talking with him and Tito, I came to realize that consistency, command, and composure were going to be big components for me in the evaluation process.

Tito and I had a lot of conversations over the prior weeks leading up to the Winter League about what holes we needed to fill while we were there. It was pretty surreal being there, watching these guys play baseball in January, and having a hand in picking players for the Silverados. Something I won’t forget!

Tito is no stranger to these types of experiences and player showcases. He has operated the Tito Fuentes Baseball Academy in Napa and provides clinics and private instruction. He has also managed several travel teams. He was an awesome person to learn the game from during our few days in Palm Springs.

When I was a student at Cal State Fullerton, I had the opportunity to get to know MLB scouts, and when I started on the Assistant General Manager path last season, I sought out a ton of help from Brad Cameron, a scout with the San Francisco Giants. Brad is an amazing person to learn the game from and when I would go back to Fullerton last season to watch games, I would sit with him and just watch and talk baseball; He has had a pretty amazing career in Major League Baseball with various teams and it was pretty awesome to just learn a different part of the game from him. Going into my first season last year, I really wanted to learn the basics of what to look for and Brad took the time to break down what he looks for in players as he scouts. It was really helpful as I went into my first Spring Training and first full season.

In Palm Springs, Tito really reinforced a lot of important factors and broke down several important components of scouting. He was awesome to learn from and we are proud to have signed players we know will make our team great.

“The California Winter League is a wonderful place to find talented baseball players. The Winter League is really well organized and I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of talent that was there. Megan and I had a great time beginning to put this team together. It got us ready for baseball and for our season. We came back wanting it to be May already,” said Fuentes.

“We are very excited to welcome some great players to our 2018 roster. We are ready to compete and welcome these players to Napa and get our season underway. Thank you to the California Winter League front office staff, interns, managers, and coaches for putting on a great display of baseball and giving these players the opportunity to play,” Fuentes added.

While I was around the ballpark, I got to meet some pretty awesome people! It’s always fun talking to people and with the excitement around Napa, everyone is always wanting to know what’s going on and the plans surrounding the club. We left Palm Springs with several new Silverados fans!

The Winter League front office is outstanding with everyone from Andrew Starke, Owner and President of the Palm Springs Power, to Justin Reschke, General Manager of the Winter League, to the interns, staff, managers, coaches, instructors, and scouts. They do such a wonderful job and we were so grateful to Andrew, Justin, and their team for welcoming us to Palm Springs and putting on a great opportunity for these players and teams.

After I got back from Palm Springs, I caught the baseball bug and it has been full steam ahead ever since. I am ready for our season to start and when it gets here, it will go by pretty quickly; 80 games in 92 days is pretty much a blur. We are very excited about the players we have signed and the talent we have coming to Napa this summer. It is going to be competitive and we are committing our organization to excellence on and off the field. I am excited to share mine, Bruce’s, and Tito’s passion with Napa and to see it come to life in May is going to be exciting. Our countdown to Opening Day has started and Napa, I hope you are ready to catch Silver Fever!

Megan Castellucci
Assistant General Manager
Napa Silverados Baseball Club

The club will announce players that have been signed from the California Winter League over the next few weeks. The Silverados open their season on May 31.

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