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The weather may be cold, but D.J.’s and P.J.’s, bats were hot

The weather may be cold, but D.J.’s and P.J.’s, bats were hot

A pair of Petaluma baseball players thrived this summer in the land where the sun (seemingly) forever shines and the sound of a ball colliding with the bat really is a crack. 

D.J. Gentile, a former Casa Grande High super slugger now at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and P.J. Sequeira, a former Petaluma High standout, both spent the summer playing in the super-competitive Alaska Baseball League.

 That league attracts some of the finest collegiate baseball players in the country for a chance to be challenged and noticed by professional and college scouts.

 Gentile, who hopes to earn considerable playing time at Cal Poly in the outfield or as designated hitter, had an especially spectacular Alaskan summer. While the sun shined for 16 hours a day, the weather was still chilly. Not so Gentile’s bat.

 The former Gaucho batted .370 with an on-base percentage of .429 and a slugging average of .550. The numbers aren’t a quick snapshot, but an impressive talent portrait painted over a 40-plus game summer.

 Unlike in college, where hitters have the advantage of using the more potent aluminum bats, players in the Alaska League must use wooden bats like professional baseball players.

 “He (D.J.) swings a wooden bat pretty well,” understated father Ralph, who made the trip north to see D.J. play this summer.

 After the regular season, Gentile joined the league champion Anchorage Glacier Pilots to play in the National Baseball Congress World Series, where he batted .375 in four games.

 The talents of Sequeira were a bit questioned when he arrived in Alaska to play for the Peninsula Oilers. Although he had a tremendous year for Santa Rosa Junior College, leading the Bear Cubs in average, home runs and runs batted in, he joined a league where the majority of the players were from Division 1 college teams.

 Batting anywhere from leadoff to cleanup in the lineup, Sequeira hit .281 with a .313 slugging percentage and a .359 on-base percentage. He also had a chance to play in the NBC World Series.

 Sequeira’s biggest challenge is just beginning. He has received a scholarship to play for Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma. Oral Roberts is a top-of-the-order Division 1 baseball school that annually reaches at least the regional level of post-season play and has been a frequent competitor in the College World Series.

 Last season, Oral Roberts was 40-17 for the season and won its 10th straight Mid-Continental Conference championship.

 Sequeira’s father, Paul, says P.J. had several offers from major colleges, but chose Oral Roberts because the Oklahoma school offered a very good scholarship and because it has a reputation not only as an excellent baseball school, but also as a very good academic institution.

 Paul Sequeira said Santa Rosa Junior College baseball coach Damon Neidlinger was instrumental in helping his son wade through the various college offers and make his decision.

 Sequeira’s success points out how beneficial the Santa Rosa Junior College athletic program can be to local athletes. SRJC is not a place for players to go who have no other options. It is a good first option.

 It takes a very good athlete to play any sport at Santa Rosa Junior College. In football and baseball especially, Santa Rosa is a state powerhouse and if a young athlete can play there, he has an excellent opportunity to move on to a top-level four-year school.

 Another SRJC standout, Josh Krist, is moving on to play at Cal Poly Pomona, one of many Bear Cubs who have springboarded to major college baseball programs after good seasons at SRJC.

 It is also true, as many families are shocked to discover, that the cost of a college education is astronomical. Santa Rosa Junior College is an affordable way to start a college education. It has an excellent academic reputation and its class credits transfer to just about any four-year school.

 I’m not sure how I got from Alaska to Santa Rosa Junior College, except that one is a nice place to visit for the summer and the other is a great place to begin a college education and a collegiate athletic career.