It won’t be easy for Pomona College’s Simon Rosenbaum to improve on his sophomore season; the Los Altos Hills native posted the second-highest batting average among NCAA Division III baseball players this year.
Yet that doesn’t mean Rosenbaum, who graduated from Los Altos High in 2012, isn’t trying to improve. He’s been playing baseball almost every day since the school year ended.
Rosenbaum knows his stellar stats (.474 average, eight homers, 23 doubles and 47 RBIs) and array of accolades (including First Team All-America and Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year) don’t guarantee success next year.
“Baseball is a tough sport,” he said. “There are lots of ups and downs. You need to keep an even keel and work hard.”
That’s why Rosenbaum has treated this summer like a baseball business trip. After spending a week in Los Altos Hills, the first baseman traveled to Wenatchee, Wash., at the beginning of June to play in the Western Baseball League with college players from throughout the country.
“It’s good competition – better than the SCIAC,” he said. “There are a lot of (NCAA) Division I guys.”
Facing better pitching while trying to tweak his swing, Rosenbaum has found it more difficult to get on base than it was last spring playing for the Pomona-Pitzer colleges team.
“It’s been a learning experience,” he said. “I’m not playing so well, but I’ve been making some adjustments. When you’re hitting, you can’t really think, and I am. It’s been a rough go of it, but I’m getting better.”
Rosenbaum lived with a host family in Wenatchee until the middle of last week when he embarked on another baseball adventure. He was off to Slovenia for the European Championships.
Rosenbaum landed a spot on the Israeli national baseball team, slated to compete in this week’s tournament against the likes of Latvia, Slovenia and Hungary for a berth in the World Baseball Classic.
Inspired by a college teammate who played on the Israeli squad a year ago, Rosenbaum said he inquired via email about joining the team this summer. After a few messages back and forth and a face-to-face meeting with an Israeli team official in February, he was added – without having to try out.
“All I needed was an (Israeli) passport,” said Rosenbaum, whose father was born there. “It should be fun – I think it will be a good experience to play there and see the world.”
Rosenbaum didn’t know what role he would have on the Israeli team, but the 6-foot-6, 215-pound righty might take on an even bigger role for Pomona-Pitzer next season. Rosenbaum could be back on the mound – he pitched as a freshman before injuring his elbow – when he’s not manning first base.
Rosenbaum underwent Tommy John surgery (or ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction) in 2013 and hasn’t pitched in a game since.
“I didn’t do pitching rehab last year because I wanted to play this year, so I’m doing it now,” he said. “It’s going really well and I expect to pitch next season.”
The starter didn’t pitch much at Los Altos, which had a stout staff during his time there. He expressed interest in pitching for Pomona-Pitzer as a freshman, though there were doubts about his ability to do so.
“The (pitching) coach said, ‘You are not going to be a starting pitcher for us this year,’” Rosenbaum said. “Somehow, it happened. I can’t put my finger on (why), but I got a lot better when I came to college.”
Rosenbaum posted a 5-1 record with a 2.03 ERA prior to his injury.
But if he hopes to play beyond college, Rosenbaum acknowledged that his best chance of getting drafted would be as a first baseman.
“There’s a chance – not a big chance – but it could happen,” he said. “That would be a dream come true.”
It’s a dream that could be realized as soon as next spring if Rosenbaum has another sizzling season at the plate. Along with notching the second-best batting average among Division III players, he ranked first in on-base percentage and doubles per game and fifth in slugging percentage this year.
“A lot of hard work by a lot of different people made it happen, including my coaches at home and school,” Rosenbaum said. “My teammates were good about getting on base in front of me, which made it easier to hit.”