By Hugo Traverso
The back to back to back defending California Collegiate League Healdsburg Prune Packers have joined the new Pacific Empire League as a founding member. The Packers joined the Medford Rogues from Oregon, the Lincoln Potters from Lincoln, California, the Humboldt Crabs from Humboldt, California, the Solano Mudcats from Fairfield, California and the West Coast Kings from Pleasant Hill, California. Most of these teams came from the California Collegiate League, a very prestigious league with strong competition.
The Prune Packers have dominated the league under Manager Joey Gomes since joining in 2017, winning CCL North titles in each of their 6 seasons in the league. This past Summer the Packers captured their 3rd consecutive CCL State Championship, and it seemed like they might never lose the title again with another 40+ win season.
They leave the CCL with another dominant team that had almost been like a regional rival of the Packers, the Lincoln Potters. The Potters have had some spectacular seasons recently and have given the Pack a run for their money in the CCL North Division and CCL Playoffs.
Humboldt and Medford bring some great baseball from the north with both teams having winning seasons last year. The Crabs went 40-7 this past Summer while the Rogues went 25-16.
The Rogues have a new manager coming in. Nate Esposito, the former Oregon State 1st Base Coach and player, was on the coaching staff at Lincoln this year, but is headed back up to Oregon to manage the squad in Medford.
West Coast Kings are an AAU academy program with a lot of high schoolers from notable Bay Area programs such as De La Salle and Clayton Valley Charter. These Kings have been very successful coming out of the Bay Area Collegiate League and will try to continue that in the PEL. Solano is coming off a tough year and will try to rebound in the new league.
The PEL starts next year and its new President Natalie Norman is very experienced in Summer baseball and just became the new Executive Director of the Prune Packers. Packers manager Joey Gomes had this to say about Norman, “I will say she is the unsung hero of this new league.” Gomes went on to talk about why the Packers moved to the new league, “The Pacific Empire League checks all the boxes as a topnotch collegiate baseball league, featuring historic teams with devoted fan bases, and strong ties to college coaches and scouts. Our integrated tech further enhances player exposure and development.”
The Packers seem to be making incredible progress in transforming West Coast Summer Baseball. The 2024 Summer Season is going to be a good one and the Packers will open the season in early June at Recreation Park in Healdsburg.