Santa Barbara Foresters
The Santa Barbara Foresters have put together a 30-game home season at Pershing Park that is scheduled to start on July 1. (Noozhawk file photo)

The Santa Barbara Foresters will be playing an independent baseball schedule this summer after the California Collegiate League announced Friday it is suspending operations this season.

The Foresters are longtime league members and the reigning champions.

“We are working on conducting a season with an independent schedule due to the CCL suspending the season,” the Foresters said on Twitter after the league’s announcement.

“We’ve got games,” Foresters manager Bill Pintard said late Friday afternoon. “We just got to get everything squared away here in Santa Barbara. We had to submit a new permit (with the City of Santa Barbara) because the schedule is different. We have our protocol in place; we’re sure we’re going to have to play without fans. Maybe in a few weeks that might open up.”

Opening day at Pershing Park is scheduled for July 1 against the Inland Empire Packers.

The team will play a 30-game schedule, all at home.

“It’s hard to do what we did,” Pintard said. “In four days, we got a 30-game schedule. There’s a team from Texas that’s flying out here and is going to play us, because we’re Santa Barbara, because we’ve had that good reputation.”

The Foresters have won the National Baseball Congress World Series a record seven times. Their last title was in 2018.

The Foresters team is comprised primarily of college players from all over the country. This summer’s roster includes standout players from powerhouse programs like UCLA, the University of Arizona and Arkansas.

“This roster we’ve put together is probably the best roster we’ve ever had with the Foresters,” said Pintard, who has had several former players reach the major leagues.

Christian Franklin, who was hitting .381 at Arkansas before the college baseball season was canceled by the pandemic, is returning for his second summer in Santa Barbara.

“He’s a top-50 (draft) pick,” said Pintard. “We have more high rounders than we’ve ever had.”

Pat Caulfield, a starting outfielder at UCLA who starred at SBCC two years ago, will be back playing at the friendly confines of Pershing Park.

The team also will include recent Santa Barbara High graduates Bryce Warrecker and Nick Oakley and 2019 SBHS grad and Cal Poly freshman Derek True. Warrecker, a pitcher/first baseman, signed with Cal Poly, and Oakley, an infielder, is headed to UCSB.

Pintard said the players will be tested for COVID-19 at home and when they arrive in Santa Barbara. They’ll have their temperatures taken before every game.

The team will follow social distancing guidelines at games.

“Our guys are going to be spread out in the dugout. There are two tiers in the dugout, which is really good, and we’ll have folding chairs down the line,” Pintard said.

As for housing the players, Pintard said local developer and property manager Ed St. George has offered vacant apartment units for them.

“It’s Ed St. George to the rescue,” said Pintard. “Without him, it’s no way.”

He noted the Foresters are in need of financial assistance to play the season as many of their longtime sponsors have suffered economically because of the pandemic.

“I don’t even have the heart to go to some of our people because they own restaurants and bars,” said Pintard.

Because of state guidelines, the public won’t be permitted into the seating area to watch the games at Pershing Park. “But if they stay patient, things progress,” said Pintard.

Since the park is a public facility, fans can view the game from beyond the outfield fence.

“You just got to social distance,” Pintard stressed. “People have to be smart about it.”

The Foresters will be playing college-player-based clubs from Orange County, Long Beach and the Inland Empire, the Ventura County Pirates, and Santa Barbara Grizzlies, and a new professional Independent League team from Santa Maria. 

“We’re really working hard,” Pintard said of putting a baseball season together. “The City Rec (Parks and Recreation Department) is behind it. Everybody is behind it. We just need final approval.”

The 10-team California Collegiate League had been working the last two months on a plan that would allow a season to take place under the health guidelines and restrictions of each community that had a team. 

“Unfortunately, our drop-dead date of June 3 arrived before we were able to discern a path to effectively operate our season,” the league said in a statement. “Our geography, the physical distance between our teams, and the different regulations as they vary by county, played a primary role in preventing the league to operate homogenously.

“In addition, the residual socioeconomic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have hindered the possibility of normal operations for many of our teams.”

The league is looking to return in 2021.

“We will return with 10 strong, quality teams that are focused on continuing our mission of being player-centric while providing the highest level of collegiate summer baseball,” said the league.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.