No doubt about it, Rochester Community and Technical College baseball coach Clark Jones has looked outside the area to find players.
In fact, Jones has looked outside the continental United States to fill out his 2021 roster. The Yellowjackets feature four such players: One from Japan, two from Puerto Rico and one from Venezuela.
“All these kids have been great,” Jones said. “They come to work. They bust their butt in practice.”
RCTC is currently 21-16-1 and will play in the Region 13 Tournament next week in St. Cloud.
Four of the players on the team include Shota Sawamura of Toyoko, Japan; Jovan Marrero-Soto and Christian Rivera of Puerto Rico and Nelson Franquiz of Venezuela. Sawamura played one year of junior college ball in Arizona while Franquiz did the same in Florida.
“A lot of kids in general take for granted their opportunity to play baseball,” Jones said. “And these guys are happy to be at an American school, in the United States, getting coaching and getting a good opportunity. A lot of kids coming out of high school take that for granted.”
Sawamura and Marrero-Soto, both infielders, have had the biggest impact for the Yellowjackets. Sawamura, the starting shortstop, is batting .354, has an on-base percentage of .460 and has scored 16 runs with 14 RBIs and seven stolen bases. Marrero-Soto leads the team with 29 runs scored and is batting .290 with nine RBIs.
Rivera is hitting .211 and Franquiz is batting .118 in reserve roles.
“The other beauty of this whole thing is when you have kids coming from different cultures, it’s just a great opportunity for our kids to learn more about other countries and cultures and that whole thing,” Jones said. “So there’s just a lot of growth going on and they’ve meshed really well and gotten along really well. Our team’s pretty big on chemistry.”
Sawamura is living at the household of Drew Yochim, a John Marshall grad and reserve outfielder for RCTC.
“We’re all here for one reason, to play baseball," Yochim said. "All of us play baseball pretty well and I think that’s kind of what keeps the glue for this team, that we’re all here to play baseball and we all get along.”
Yochim also enjoys learning about some other cultures from around the world.
“I took Spanish for like four years so sometimes I can talk to some of the Hispanic kids, so that’s also pretty fun to do,” Yochim said.