Elvis estatic after finding way to Cal

Panic hit Cole Elvis like a fastball to the ribs when he made a verbal commitment in December 2017 to play baseball at San Jose State. Five of his Vacaville High School teammates would be going to universities such as Oregon State and Nevada, so Elvis figured he would have to take what he could get and settling for less was better than going to a junior college.

Troy Claunch was at Oregon State, Tyler Bosetti at Nevada, Shea Kramer at Utah, Braydon Altorfer at the Air Force Academy and Bryce Begell had committed a year earlier to play at Arizona. Elvis was left to choose between San Jose State and UC Davis with little reason to think a better offer would be coming his way.

“I didn’t see going anywhere else,” Elvis explained. “With two options, I really didn’t think there was a reason to wait.” 

A better offer eventually came, and that is why Elvis will be wearing a Cal uniform Friday when the Golden Bears begin a three-game series against Arizona State in Berkeley. After Elvis found a way to get away from San Jose State, Cal happened to be in a market for a catcher. The rest is almost too good to be true.

Elvis had no idea when he signed his letter of intent with San Jose State that Spartans coach Jason Hawkins was under investigation for holding illegal practices. Elvis requested to be released from his letter of intent and given the circumstances, the Spartans obliged. He did not leave as much as he escaped.

The turmoil turned into a convenient excuse for Elvis to bail out, but now he realizes he should have never pledged to San Jose State in the first place. His senior year at Vacaville High was four months old when Elvis punched the panic button in fear he would graduate with no clue where his career would continue.

Elvis may have forgiven San Jose State had he not been kept in the dark during the investigation.  He was confident Hawkins had the program going in the right direction and looked ahead to developing his skills as a catcher with assistant coach Tyler LaTorre, who was Italy’s catcher in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

“There was a lot of stuff left unsaid (during the investigation). That brought up some red flags,” Elvis recalled. “(LaTorre) took it really well. He knew there were a lot of moving parts. He tried to get me to stay. He told me that if I decided to come back, the offer would be still be there. Everything happens for a reason.”

Regardless of the reason, Elvis could not be happier at Cal. Most of his playing time as a freshman has come in nonconference games, but Elvis realizes he has to pay his dues. He has belted three of his five home runs in nonconference games on Tuesdays to earn the moniker of “Mr. Tuesday” from his teammates.

“Give me a weekend game,” Elvis quipped, “and I bet I’ll hit a homer then, too.”

His power has come as a surprise given that Elvis hit a total of three homers in his last two seasons at Vacaville. “I’m getting good pitches to hit, pitches up in the zone,” said Elvis, who still has to much to prove at the plate. His .188 average is the lowest among 11 Cal players with 40 or more at-bats this season.

Two of his nine hits came March 12 in a 13-0 victory over San Jose State. He also had two RBI and scored twice. By the way, that was on a Tuesday.

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Ex-Aggies apply for work in NFL

Keelan Doss (left) went from the disappointment of not being selected in the NFL Draft to signing with the Oakland Raiders. The wide receiver, who played for Raiders coach Jon Gruden in the Senior Bowl, is not the only former UC Davis player to have an opportunity to earn a job in the NFL. Linebacker Mason Moe (right) and defensive back Vincent White (above) have been invited to rookie mini-camps by the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos, respectively.

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When NFL calls, Doss will answer

“Are you my son?”

Tammie Chambless asks that question when she looks at her only child and wonders if he might just be too good to be true. Keelan Doss has accomplished quite a bit in 22 years. He graduated from UC Davis in December with a degree in sociology after becoming one of the top wide receivers in college football.

If Chambless thinks Doss is a bit annoyed by her posting and boasting on Facebook, imagine what will happen her son’s name is called Saturday when the NFL Draft enters rounds 4-7. Doss emerged in 2016 by catching 66 passes for 911 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a junior in 2017, he had 115 receptions for 1,499 yards and seven touchdowns on his way to being named the the Offensive Player of the Year in the Big Sky Conference.

Doss could have skipped his senior season at UC Davis and entered the draft last year, but he had a feeling that 2018 would be special. The Aggies won seven of 26 games in Doss’ first three years (he redshirted in 2015), then went 5-6 in 2017 after Dan Hawkins returned to his alma mater as coach.

Doss could have skipped his senior season at UC Davis and entered the draft last year, but he had a feeling that 2018 would be special. The Aggies won seven of 26 games in Doss’ first three years (he redshirted in 2015), then went 5-6 in 2017 after Dan Hawkins returned to his alma mater as coach.

As Hawkins restored pride in the program, the decision by Doss to stay put inspired his teammates to sacrifice as much as he did by opting to return instead of pursuing fame and fortune in the NFL.

If Doss had “unfinished business,” as Hawkins said, the Aggies repaid Doss for in his investment of faith by going 10-3, earning a share of the Big Sky championship and reaching the FCS playoffs for the first time.

 If Doss had “unfinished business,” as Hawkins said, the Aggies repaid Doss for in his investment of faith by going 10-3, earning a share of the Big Sky championship and reaching the FCS playoffs for the first time.

Chambless loves to brag about her son on Facebook, but she refuses to accept any credit for all he has accomplished. “This is his story. This is his doing. This is his path,”  she said. “I’m his biggest fan. He’s not one for attention. He’s always telling me, ‘Mom, you don’t have to tag me in everything on Facebook.’”

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“Is that your grandson?”

Bob Matteson expects to hear that question when he sits in his favorite Lodi donut shop and proudly points out the framed photo of Doss on the wall. Chambless’ father realizes how difficult it will be for most folks to come to grips with the notion that an 83-year-old white man is claiming to have a black grandson.

“It’s always been perfectly natural for us,” Matteson exclaimed in reference to anyone who might think otherwise.

Doss visited his grandfather at the donut shop in November and autographed the photo. According to Chambless, Doss sent her a text after four hours to let her know he was still in Lodi. Mattson begs to differ with the time element, saying Doss stayed no longer than 90 minutes. Doss says it was more like 2 hours.

“(Doss) made his grandpa’s day,” Chambless said.

What really mattered to Matteson is that Doss took the time in the heart of football season to visit his grandfather. Chambless and Doss’ father, Keith Doss, never married, so Chambless and her son lived with her parents when Doss was a toddler. In raising her son, Chambless counted on her parents to lend a hand.

Even after Chambless and Doss moved to Alameda, her parents continued to provide guidance for their grandson. “They believed in him when he was finding his way,” Chambless recalled. “That’s all he needed.”

Doss has paid tribute to his grandparents with tattoos on his left arm. He got his first after turning 18,  much to his mother’s chagrin until she learned the tattoo would be of her father’s favorite Bible verse – John 3:16.

The second tattoo is a portrait of his grandmother, Julie Matteson, who died in 2016. Chambless has the same one.

“She will live forever with me,” Doss said of his grandmother. “She was a great person. She treated everyone equally.”

Julie Matteson did not see saw her grandson as black. Doss has never thought of his grandparents as white. Chambless is as proud of her son for embracing his mixed ethnicity as she is of his ability to catch a football.

“I’ve never put two and two together. I don’t think about it like that,” Doss said. “It’s a weird dynamic, but I’ve never been bothered by it. I can be both black and white. That’s great for me. Everybody’s the same anyway.” 

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Reed in need of a second chance

Save your breath with Michael Reed. No one needs to tell the 26-year-old outfielder that he squandered a golden opportunity with the San Francisco Giants. Reed may well be the first player in major-league history to start the first two games of a season and then be told to get lost four days later.

The Giants thought enough of Reed to start him on opening day in San Diego five days after acquiring him in a trade with the Minnesota Twins. Reed was hitting .278 with a home run and four RBI in eight Grapefruit League games when the Twins sent him on his way to the city by the bay.

Reed actually joined the Giants in Arizona. After going 0-for-4 in three Cactus League games, he was just informed just hours before the opener on March 28 that he would start. The news was as much a surprise to Reed as it was to any Giants fan trying to figure out who he was and why he was in right field.

His position was about all that went right for Reed, who went 0-for-2 with a strikeout before being replaced by Yangervis Solarte, Manager Bruce Bochy juggled his batting order for the second game and elevated Reed from seventh to leadoff. Reed responded with three strikeouts in as many at-bats – baseball’s version of a hat trick.

That was the beginning of the end. Reed did not start again and struck out twice in his last four at-bats as a Giant. In urgent need of an outfielder who can do more than whiff, the Giants acquired Kevin Pillar from the Blue Jays on April 2 and told Reed to clean out his locker.

Being designated for assignment at least allowed Reed to catch his breath. Being traded five days before the start of the regular season and trying to become acquainted with new teammates had left him gasping.

And that was before he learned he would start on opening day. With all of 35 at-bats in the major leagues entering the season, Reed does not believe he was over his head as much as he was in it too often. He turned into Crash Davis in the movie “Bull Durham” when Davis talked to himself at the plate. “You’re thinking too much, Crash. You’re thinking too much. Get out of your (expletive) head.”

Reed can relate. His new teammates did all they could to make me feel welcome, Reed said, but he might as well have been on a deserted island when he returned to the dugout after striking out again and again.

“There were quite a few guys who came to me and said, ‘We’ve got you. Just relax,’” Reed said. “At the same time, I’m thinking in my head that I’ve got to impress. Maybe I was pressing too much. I was looking at video (of his at-bats) every day. Maybe I should have gotten out of my head and just been an athlete.”

His confidence has remained intact through each trial and tribulation. Reed knows he can play in the major leagues. He expects a second chance will come his way and plans to take advantage of it when it arrives.

“At the end of the day, I don’t have to impress anybody,” Reed said. “I just need to be who I am and let everything else take care of itself. I know I can this game at the highest level. This game is a very tough game. You live and learn in this game. This is my ninth season and I’m still learning.”

An RBI double in his first at-bat with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats on April 5 was a step in the right direction. Strikeouts continue to be a problem for Reed, who has 10 in 31 at-bats. He is not making or taking time to think about statistics. His goal is build consistency to go along with his tenacity.

“I don’t think I’ve doubted myself, but there are times when you get down on yourself,” Reed said. “That was such a great opportunity (with the Giants) and I missed it. It is what it is. Hopefully I’ll get that chance again. As long as I have a jersey on my back, I have an opportunity.”

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Pitching suits ex-Bulldog Gonsolin

Kennedy Jorgensen no longer has to worry about her boyfriend having a suitable suit for a special occasion. She helped Tony Gonsolin find a new one last September in time for the 2012 Vacaville High School graduate to be honored by the Los Angeles Dodgers as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Gonsolin figured he would be fine with a suit that was as old as his high school diploma. Jorgensen realized as Gonsolin was getting dressed that his suit was no longer fit to fit him, so a shopping they would go.

“Panic hit,” Jorgensen recalled. “He could barely walk in it. There was no way he was going to sit down in it.”

Photo by Cody Roper/Oklahoma City Dodgers

Gonsolin will need to invest in a few suits if he makes it to the major leagues this season. He turned quite a few heads in spring training in Arizona by pitching nine shutout innings with six strikeouts.  He tossed three perfect innings and struck out three March 11 against the San Francisco Giants.

Most young pitchers would be in awe of major-league hitters. Gonsolin took his start against the Giants in stride, although striking out Evan Longoria to end the first inning was a thrill.

“I noticed it was (Longoria). He’s an All-Star. He’s legit,” Gonsolin said. “That was one of the more exciting moments. That was cool. I didn’t think about it when I was out there. I just made good pitches.”

That Gonsolin is pitching these days might come as a surprise. He was primarily an outfielder in his four years at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. He started 159 of 162 games in his last three seasons with the Gaels, but only 19 of those starts were on the mound. Gonsolin also made 28 appearances as a reliever.

Scouts must have discounted his 4-8 record and 3.78 ERA as a junior and senior at Saint Mary’s. One statistic they counted in those two seasons was strikeouts. Gonsolin whiffed 83 in 107 innings. His knack for strikeouts has continued in three minor-league seasons with 265 in 229 innings.

His prowess raises the question of whether Gonsolin is ready to pitch in the major leagues as soon as this season. Gonsolin has no idea what the future holds and will expend little time thinking about the unknown.

“It’s completely out of my control,” said Gonsolin, who lost in his first start for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sunday. “The decision is up to them. I’m just going out there and trying to get better.”

For Jorgensen, who was in Arizona working for the Cincinnati Reds, Gonsolin’s guessing game is nothing new. She was raised in baseball because her father, Randy, played in the minor leagues from 1993 to ’99. Randy never reached the major leagues, playing for eight teams in seven years and going from the West Coast (Bellingham, Wash.) to the East (Wilmington, N.C.)

Once Jorgensen and Gonsolin became an item, she was concerned her father would prefer for her to steer clear of the minor-league road. She got a taste of it in 2017 after buying an airline ticket to visit Gonsolin when he was with the Great Lakes Loons in Midland, Mich., only to have to change her destination. Gonsolin was promoted to Rancho Cucamonga as Jorgensen was packing for Michigan.

“He called me and said he had really good news and really bad news. I had a feeling it was going to happen,” said Jorgensen, who purchased travel insurance just in case her boyfriend would also be packing his bags.

Jorgensen arranged for Gonsolin and her father to meet during spring training in 2017 when they went to an Arizona Coyotes hockey game. When Jorgensen and her father parted ways that night, she got his scouting report.

“‘Tony is a nice guy …’” Jorgensen recalled her father saying as he stepped out of her car, “‘so far.”

So far with the Dodgers, it has been so good for Gonsolin.

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