CSUB baseball-6077

The Cal State Bakersfield baseball team gathers on the mound for a talk with their coaches at Stockdale High on Tuesday, where the Roadrunners held their first-ever practice.

The group of 25 players and three coaches were spread throughout the Stockdale High School baseball field.

Bright blue jerseys with dark blue numbers trimmed in gold shined in the fall afternoon sunshine.

The formation of a baseball program at Cal State Bakersfield has been in the works for more than two years. On Tuesday, it was reality: baseball players enrolled at CSUB held their first official practice.

"It's extremely exciting to be part of the first team in Cal State Bakersfield history," said infielder Brandon Boren, coming off two fine years at Bakersfield College who was one of 12 juniors practicing Tuesday.

"We are setting the very first bar, and we want to set the bar high," Boren said. "Coach (Bill) Kernen says there's only one 'first,' and we'll remember this the rest of our lives."

Korie Walkley, a freshman from Centennial High, said he's privileged to be a part of the inaugural team.

"I grew up here. This is my hometown," Walkley said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. There's only one first-year team."

The Roadrunners' first official game won't be played until late February, but there are five practice games set for the fall.

For Kernen, the initial practice was the next step from team workouts, which began the first week of classes in mid-September.

The on-campus baseball field is under construction and won't be ready for practice or games until at least January, Kernen said.

The 13 freshman (there are no sophomores or seniors) may have thought they had left a high school facility for good once they joined a Division I program. No one was complaining about playing at Stockdale High.

"For us, any field is good enough, as long as we have a place to throw a ball and hit," said freshman catcher Jeremy Rodriguez, who is from Thousand Oaks and Crespi High School.

"Baseball is baseball," Boren said. "Batting practice, taking ground balls — we don't even know our surroundings now."

Kernen said the immediate goal is having the players and coaches go at game speed during practice.

"The one thing we believe in with this program is that we never practice. We always play," Kernen said. "We do everything game speed, with the same kind of energy level and the same speed you do in a game situation."

CSUB will likely use Stockdale as its main practice field this fall, but Kernen said Bakersfield Christian and other fields could be used when Stockdale is not available.

"Whenever you have facilities being constructed, this is a normal thing that happens," he said. "The University of Oregon right now is at a high school field because their facility is being built."

He added: "You live with that because you know something better is being done at home."

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