A week before two members of the 2011 College World Series team -- Erik Johnson and Marcus Semien -- made their Major League debuts in Yankee Stadium, the California baseball team snagged its fourth commitment of the summer, landing former UC Irvine commit Jeff Bain.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-handed pitcher originally committed to the Anteaters and head coach Mike Gillespie after his junior year, with offers from them, Cal Poly, UC Davis and UC Riverside.
After Irvine and Bain's primary recruiter – Pat Shine – parted ways in mid-June, Bain opened things back up.
"I was originally committed to Irvine late in my junior year, and they fired the coach that had recruited me, and he was a pretty big part of my decision, so that opened up the opportunity to look around a little more, and obviously, great things happened with that, so it was kind of a blessing in disguise," says Bain.
Bain – who played for the Milwaukee Brewers team in the Area Code Games this summer -- wanted to go somewhere where he'd be able to win games. That was the No. 1 factor. Three months after Shine left Irvine, Bears pitching coach Mike Neu invited Bain to Berkeley to check out the campus.
"I visited Aug. 23, after I got the offer over the phone a week prior," Bain says. "Cal is my dream school. That was my dream school growing up, and coach Neu having some big league experience was a big part of it. I wanted to go in, knowing that I'd have a great pitching coach like coach Neu, and when I finally got to meet the rest of the staff, it just speaks for itself. They were all very nice, good guys to play for, and I hear great things about the program."
It took about a week after Bain's visit before the projectable big-bodied righty decided to make things official with Cal, becoming the Bears' fifth commit of the 2014 class, including Moraga (Calif.) Campolindo duo Matt Ladrech and Denis Karas, top-100 catcher Brett Cumberland and infielder Preston GrandPre.
"That was the best academic school on the table, and obviously, a degree from Cal speaks for itself," Bain says. "Both my parents recognize that, and that was a really important part of my decision."
Beyond the academics, Bain says that the combination of the training facilities – the Bears work out several times a week during the offseason in the Simpson Center for Student Athlete High Performance ("You could play long toss in there; It's the biggest weight room I've ever seen," Bain says) – and what Neu can do for him to develop his talent while winning games, really helped push him over the edge to make his final decision.
Having also seen what the school has done with Evans Diamond also played a big part.
"I'd been up before they put in the lights and scoreboard, and really, it's a really classy ballpark," Bain says. "There's no real flaw to it. It's a beautiful ballpark, a beautiful campus in a beautiful part of the state, so it sells itself."
As a junior, Bain posted a 1.11 ERA in 14 appearances, with an 8-1 record and three complete games. He struck out 98 batters in 76 innings of work, allowing just 27 walks, one double and one home run.
He compliments his high-80s, low-90s fastball with a curveball and a straight change.
"I think the best part of my game, as far as being on the mound, is that I pride myself in being able to work the count, work sequences on certain hitters. That's where I like to set myself apart, is pitchability," says Bain. "I like throwing my change up to both sides of the plate, and my curveball more to righties, but the change up is the stronger off speed pitch, while the curveball is kind of a work in progress right now."
Before he gets to Berkeley, though, Bain wants to have a little more fun. Last season, he hit .333 as a junior in 22 games, with 12 RBIs, 15 hits, seven runs, six doubles a triple and a home run as a first baseman.
"I just want to win. Honestly, we've been in an upward swing here, at my high school, and I just want to keep winning games, and to have fun hitting, while I still can," Bain says. "It's going to be my last year with a stick in my hand, so I may as well have a good time."
Once he gets to Cal, though, he's ready to put in the work to compete with a rotation that's expected to feature Ryan Mason and 2013 signees Trevin Haseltine, Daulton Jefferies and Alex Schick.
"You earn your playing time, wherever you go, especially at a place like Cal," Bain says. "You've got to earn your playing time, and wherever they put me is obviously what I deserve, so I'll be happy with any role, really.
"Just being there, getting my feet wet and hopefully having the opportunity to win baseball games for them -- that's what it is for me. I just want to go out and win."
Bears Bag Bain
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