While the National Collegiate Athletic Association rankings are new for California Baptist University, sending athletes to the professional side of their sports is not.
In 1981, CBU sent its first athlete to play professionally when Glenn Barling, a baseball player, was drafted by the San Francisco Giants. Since then, the trend of athletes signing professional contracts has increased.
The most recent Lancer to be drafted was Zachary Esquerra, a baseball player, in 2013. He was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 24th round of the Major League Baseball June amateur draft. He was then sent to play for the Hillsboro Hops, a minor league team in Oregon owned by the Diamondbacks, where he played for one year. He now plays for the Diamondbacks.
“As soon as I found out baseball could be a profession, that was what I wanted to do,” Esquerra said. “From Little League to high school to college, I wanted to work my way to the next level. Now that I’m a professional, I want to work my way to the big leagues.”
Esquerra was able to show his talent as a capable player during the 2013 season when the Hops suffered a losing streak while he was injured. When he came back, the team won a few more games, ending the season with a record of 30-39.
Another Lancer who is making a name for himself is former CBU men’s volleyball player Levi Cabral, who was pursued by Saint-Nazaire Volley-Ball Atlantique in France.
“I had offers from teams in Italy, Germany and the United Arab Emirates,” Cabral said. “I decided on France because the league is strong, the economy isn’t as bad as (other European countries) and I wanted to explore and learn about France.”
Although one of his motivations was to learn about the French language and culture, Cabral said his goal was always to be a professional athlete regardless of where he would be playing.
“No one really encouraged me to (play professionally); it was always my goal,” Cabral said. “But my family was always there supporting me. It’s good motivation.”
Kris Johnson, senior business administration major and current member of the CBU men’s volleyball team, was Cabral’s teammate.
“He brought (greatness) out of everyone he played with,” Johnson said. “There is no question he had passion for the game and it never seemed to matter if he went pro or not because the game was what he loved.”
Esquerra and Cabral are both examples of the dedication and hard work it takes to transition from the collegiate to professional level of sports.
“Getting from high school to college takes a lot of work,” Esquerra said. “It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and perseverance to become the best player you can be.”