A year ago, Nick Vehlewald thought his baseball career was probably over.
The former Garces High standout had just completed his senior year at Cal State Bakersfield and he was suddenly a man without a team or a foreseeable pathway to continue playing the sport.
That all changed this past winter when the Pecos League decided to fill the void left by the departure of the Bakersfield Blaze and make the Bakersfield Train Robbers the new tenants of Sam Lynn Ballpark.
After finding out about the Train Robbers, Vehlewald called team manager Bill Moore and “one thing led to another.”
That phone call was fortuitous for both parties involved.
Vehlewald couldn’t be happier to be playing baseball this summer and the Train Robbers found a quality local player to help draw fans to the ballpark and provide a big bat in the middle of their lineup.
“I’ve played here (in Bakersfield) for a long time,” Vehlewald said. “First Little League and then high school, then college and now pro ball. This is an awesome opportunity for me.”
Vehlewald, who mostly plays third base for his new team, is making the most of the opportunity.
His hot hitting helped the Train Robbers finish their first homestand of the season with a 10-0 record.
“We’re off to a great start and we’re playing really well,” Vehlewald said.
He hopes that trend continues for the remainder of the team’s 64-game schedule.
Vehlewald has been part of winning teams throughout his baseball career.
Garces won back-to-back Southeast Yosemite League baseball championships during Vehlewald’s junior and senior seasons.
He posted an eye-popping .500 batting average and nine home runs as senior.
That led him to be recruited by CSUB, where he played four years including 2015, when CSUB won the WAC Tournament.
That victory earned the Roadrunners a spot in the NCAA Tournament during which Vehlewald hit a home run against UCLA.
Vehlewald considers that blast along with the WAC title the biggest highlights of his baseball career.
Vehlewald’s bat has provided a plethora of big moments over the years.
“Definitely the strength of my game is at the plate,” Vehlewald said. “I like being in situations where there are runners on second and third, we’re down by one and I have the opportunity to put the ball in the gap and give us in the lead. I pride myself on being a good hitter.”
The 5-foot-11, 200-pou- nder first started honing his hitting skills as a kid on the Bakersfield Northwest Baseball Complex adjacent to Sam Lynn Ballpark, his new home stadium.
“I played (at Sam Lynn Ballpark several times) in high school for the Terrio Tournament,” Vehlewald said. “It was cool. It was fun. But now calling it home and coming here every day and working out on this field, you kind of get more of the vibe on how historic it actually is.”
Vehlewald knows the 76-year-old ballpark might be the last stop of his baseball career, but that doesn’t bother him in the least.
“I want to continue on my career as long as I can,” Vehlewald said. “I know I probably won’t make it to the Major Leagues or have a huge signing bonus or anything like that. But to be able to play the game I love for couple of more years would be great.” ￼