Start Your Engines

Cal baseball's latest 2014 commit only started watching college baseball when childhood friend Chris Paul debuted for the Golden Bears, and now, two years later, he's set to join Paul and fellow former Long Beach Breaker Robbie McInerny in blue and gold.

When the California baseball program's latest commit – infielder Preston GrandPre -- called his once-and-future teammate Chris Paul on Tuesday to tell him that, just that morning, he'd called pitching coach Mike Neu to commit to the Bears, the exchange between the two longtime friends was less a conversation and more a cacophony of unintelligible shouts.

"When I called him this morning, right after I committed, we were both speechless. We didn't know what to say. There was just so much excitement. We kind of just yelled at each other," GrandPre said. "We were so amped that we get to play with each other again as part of a brotherhood. In college baseball, those are your brothers. You don't forget those guys ... He's one of my family friends. I've known him ever since I was seven. We've been going on family trips with that guy for the past 10, 12 years of my life."

The 6-foot-3, 175-pound shortstop out of Laguna Beach (Calif.) is the second commit this month for David Esquer's Bears, joining 2015 commit Jeremiah Burks. The 2014 infielder jumped in the boat on Tuesday morning, after a whirlwind month that saw him travel to most of the baseball powers in the Pac-12, including USC, UCLA, Oregon and Oregon State.

"I went up [at Cal] at the beginning of this month, and then I went to USC and played a camp there and then I went to Oregon and four or five schools that I wanted to see. I kind of fell in love with Cal, and I pulled the trigger today," GrandPre said. "I love coach Esquer, coach Neu, coach Tony [Arnerich] – they're all just amazing guys."

GrandPre boasts a 3.3 overall GPA, and scored an eye-popping 35 on the ACT.

As a junior, GrandPre – who has pitched, played second, short, third and outfield -- helped lead a senior-heavy Breakers squad to a 26-3 record, hitting .347 with a .414 on-base percentage, 18 RBIs, 28 runs scored, eight doubles and three home runs. This past winter, he participated in the Goodwill Series, heading down to Australia and hitting .300 over the course of two weeks Down Under.

"Honestly, it was the time of my life," GrandPre said. "I went there with a team that I only knew one kid, and he was from San Clemente. He's a little bit south of me, but it was the time of my life. I played in three different cities, stayed with three different host families and it gave me a feel of what pro baseball or college baseball is like, even like going away for summer like Chris Paul is doing in the Northwoods League right now in Minnesota. It gave me a feel of that. It was a really cool experience, meeting a bunch of people and playing against another nationality. It was just a great experience."

GrandPre's bat still needs to come around a bit, but a source says that the Bears love his through-the-roof upside. GrandPre – appropriately enough, considering his surname – has a lot of speed, clocking a 6.75 60-yard dash (equivalent to a sub-4.5 40 in football terms) and can cover a lot of ground up the middle, with quick feet and long arms.

Cal really has Paul to thank for introducing GrandPre to college baseball. The junior infielder – currently hitting .329 with seven doubles, two triples, two home runs and 27 RBIs in 55 games this season for the St. Cloud River Bats of the Northwoods League – was one of the Bears' first commits after the program was saved from elimination in 2011, and during his past two seasons in Berkeley, GrandPre has watched, intently.

"When CP went, that's when I really started following college baseball," GrandPre said. "I followed him a lot. He's one of our close family friends, so his parents would always come over and we'd watch games online and follow his stats. He just killed it. Look at him now. He's an amazing baseball player. He's a dude."

When Paul committed, of course, the Bears had none of the accouterments that they boast today – with a newly-installed video scoreboard and lights, not to mention the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance, at which Cal works out several times a week during the fall.

"They just got lights, and playing under the lights is something huge. That stadium was 100 times better, just because they have lights. More fans are going to come because there are more night games," GrandPre gushed. "All of their facilities are top-notch. They're in the Pac-12 so they have awesome facilities. They told me that our recruiting class is some of the best kids in pretty much all grades. The grade above me, they had a heavy recruiting class, but talking with coach Neu and coach Esquer and what they had to say, they have a lot of dudes. I want to go play on a winning team, and that's what put me over the edge. They were all 100-percent in. All the coaches are 100-percent in. They had so much faith in what they have on the field, and they love what they do. Everything they said about what they're trying to do, it's to win, and that's what put me over the edge."

One of the big behind-the-scenes contributors to the effort to save the program was former Bears right fielder Dan McInerny, who's son Robbie McInerny -- another former Laguna Beach Breaker -- is coming into this fall as a walk-on kicker for the Cal football team, as well as a walk-on infielder for the baseball team.

"Those two, Robbie's going next year, and Chris is already up there. I called them both today, and we were all really excited. I am very excited to go play with the Cal Bears, to be a Cal Bear," GrandPre said. "Those two, Robbie's going next year, and Chris is already up there. I called them both today, and we were all really excited. I am very excited to go play with the Cal Bears, to be a Cal Bear."

With a 2013 class which saw three of its top players selected in the Major League Draft (and still deciding to come to Berkeley), the Bears have a big start on the 2014 bunch, with GrandPre joining Moraga (Calif.) Campolindo duo Matt Ladrech (LHP) and infielder/right-handed pitcher Denis Karas, as well as top-100 catching prospect Brett Cumberland out of Turlock (Calif.) High School.

"From what I've heard, it's one of the best recruiting classes [for 2013]. They've got some dudes," said GrandPre. "What really made me fall in love, No. 1, Berkeley is an amazing college town. No. 2, the campus is beautiful. No. 3, I have two teammates up there, and they absolutely love it up there, playing up there. Some people say that it's not a four-year choice, it's a 40-year choice for colleges. I look at it as, 40 years from now, I'm going to be really happy to say that I was a Cal Bear. That's my whole thought. I really wanted to go Pac-12, and that was my main thing."

As he was mulling his decision, GrandPre consulted Paul about what the atmosphere was like, and what he could expect from the program.

"He said it's like a big family. He says that there's not one person on this team that you can't go to and talk to. They're all brothers," GrandPre said. "If you're going to go play college baseball, you're going to be brothers with those guys for the rest of your life."

And, as incoming infielder Robbie Tenerowicz has said ad nauseum, it's about going to Omaha.

"It's more than a cool place to play. That place is special. Omaha is, I think, one of the most sacred places in baseball," GrandPre said. "You want to go play in Omaha. I think that's a huge thing. What they did in 2011 really opened up my eyes. We have the potential to go win that. They got that far, and that team was amazing – they did everything they possibly could and they got knocked out by Virginia, the No. 1 seed. They got stuck in a hard position to face the No. 1 team, but it's something that [...] the College World Series is something I hope that I get a chance to play in, and I think we will, with what they have going on at Cal." Top Stories