A self-proclaimed creature of habit, Roman Angelo hasn't always known what to do with himself during an unprecedented spring and summer.
Angelo, a 2018 Bakersfield Christian grad, was right in his regimented comfort zone in February and March, having begun his sophomore campaign as a pitcher on the Cal State Bakersfield baseball team. Though a "practice-class-game" daily grind didn't leave him much down time, Angelo found it easiest to function when his entire day was mapped out.
But as COVID-19 began sinking its claws into all aspects of American life, that comfort became disrupted. And when the Roadrunners' season was canceled in March, he was in the unfamiliar position of having to find ways to stay busy.
"It was challenging because we are used to having a routine every single day," Angelo said. "It's like having a job. You're used to going in at a certain time every day."
After taking time away from baseball to complete his online coursework at CSUB, Angelo attempted to restore order into his life once summer began, beginning each day with long toss drills at exactly 9 a.m.
From there, he'd change his workouts up daily, routinely going for runs and throwing in bullpen sessions. And while friends and teammates occasionally took part in these workouts, a certain degree of camaraderie was missing, and Angelo admits it was frustrating not knowing if these activities would immediately lead anywhere.
"The toughest part for sure was not being with my teammates," he said. "It can be tough training and not knowing when you are going to get to play again."
Luckily, by July, an opportunity to return to the field finally presented itself.
Generally competing in the California Collegiate League, the Santa Barbara Foresters were still able to put a team together despite the league shutting down for the summer. Playing against semi-pro and independent teams, the Foresters were looking to add pitching depth a few weeks into the season.
Word of this eventually got to CSUB head coach Jeremy Beard, who recommended Angelo to team management. Upon his arrival in Santa Barbara, Angelo quickly found success coming out of the bullpen.
He made his season debut against the Bakersfield Braves on July 21, striking out three in two innings of work in a 13-0 Foresters win. He's since made two additional appearances, striking out nine while allowing one earned run in seven innings on a team currently sitting a 27-4.
Angelo and his teammates have recently taken their talents on the road. The Foresters are one of 13 teams competing in the National Baseball Congress World Series, a week-long, double-elimination tournament that began play on Aug. 3 at Wichita State University in Kansas
The atmosphere is hardly normal, as players are subject to temperature and COVID-19 symptom checks each day before entering the ballpark.
But even if it is a bit unorthodox, getting to take a road trip with old friends (Stockdale grad and current UCLA pitcher Sean Mullen is also on the Forester roster) and new while playing in front of crowds has helped Angelo scratch a competitive itch that's been missing for much of 2020.
“It’s awesome," said Angelo, who did not play in Santa Barbara's 8-0 series-opening win over Denver Tuesday night. "You’re out there with a bunch of guys who have the same goals as you. That’s for sure great to get going again.”
When he does see the mound in World Series play, Angelo's college coaches say he'll have a great opportunity to sharpen his skills prior to returning to the collegiate game.
“A lot of great players have played in that over the years, so he’s going to be in some big-time company," Beard said. "The best thing is for him to keep getting experience, face some quality hitters in an atmosphere where it’s competitive.”
Unfortunately, with the Big West having already pushed back its fall sports calendar, there is no set timetable for when the Roadrunners will be able to take the field again. Knowing such uncertainty exists, Angelo is basking in any opportunity he gets to work in a competitive, organized team environment.
"Being able to face live hitters is a pretty big deal going into fall," he said. "It’s nice being able to get into stride now rather than breaking off the rust come fall. And we don’t even know how fall’s going to work, if we’ll be able to play as much as we should.
"So it’s just kind of nice having the assurance that we are going to play. It’s a guarantee at a time of non-guarantees."
Angelo and the Foresters return to action Thursday with a 6:30 p.m. game against the Liberal (Kan.) Bee Jays.