Season's End Brings New Beginnings for Mann, Vance
Palm trees and strip malls alone didn’t dominate the Fullerton landscape—so, too, did Schuyler Mann and Matt Vance, SoCal natives both, who strapped on their spikes as teammates for the final time.
For Mann, the gracious Crimson captain who learned to play the game as a nine-year-old Los Angelino, yesterday’s 14-6 loss to Missouri was the end of an illustrious collegiate career and—pending developments in this week’s MLB Draft—a potential new beginning.
“The door’s not closing on baseball,” he said of the draft, which takes place Tuesday and Wednesday. “We’ll see. I’m not too familiar with the whole process. Maybe some teams will be interested in me.”
On a dazzling Saturday afternoon at Fullerton’s Goodwin Field, the only element that belied the scenic tranquility was Harvard’s uncharacteristically messy play.
Mann, the power-hitting Crimson catcher, woke up his teammates with a rocket shot into the stands just beyond the home dugout to lead off the second. In the same at-bat, he bounded Harvard’s first hit of the day through the infield and, following a Steffan Wilson groundout, scored the Crimson’s first run of the NCAA Tournament.
Several of his relatives—“my grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins,” he said—cheered from the stands. It was a banner moment for Los Angeles’ native son, who despite spending his adolescence in Trumbull, Conn., and at Harvard College, never quite left home.
“It was definitely something I was thinking about,” he said.
The day wasn’t all good news. In the last at-bat of Mann’s career—runners waited on second and third in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out, 14-6 deficit to overcome—the captain struck out to end the game. The final pitch: a called strike on a 3-2 fastball that looked inside. Gracefully, Mann bowed out and shook hands with the opposing team.
“It was definitely not the way you want to end it,” he said. “It’s hard to think of the high points of the year after a loss like this.”
On second thought…
“We had such a successful season,” he said, growing pensive. “It was just a great group of guys to play with.”
For Vance, Harvard’s swaggering freshman leadoff man, the day wasn’t an end—it was an inauguration of promise.
A graduate of Torrey Pines High School outside of San Diego, Vance looked more like a Hollywood product as he confidently strode to the plate, the delightful squeals of his personal cheering section turning crowd heads.
Television cameramen made a point to catch some of the makeshift placards—“Matt is Hot!” read one—that Vance’s friends had drawn up.
Each time Vance gloved a catch or swung the bat—which, in a three-for-five day at the top of the order, often met with happy results—the cheers rang louder.
“I think what we’re going to take away from this tournament,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said, “is that Matty Vance was capable of playing down here.”
In leading off the third inning with the Crimson down 9-3, Vance engineered a mini-comeback of his own. The 6’0, 180-pound rookie tagged a soaring double off the left-centerfield wall—just two feet short of a home run and above the 385-foot indicator—and later scored on a one-out Lance Salsgiver sacrifice fly.
“He just was driving the ball,” Walsh said. “Every time he got up there you felt like he was the one guy in the lineup that was going to hit it right on the nose. You just felt good every time he’d get up to the plate.”
Success was fleeting for Harvard during the NCAA Regionals—but for two local products, it was an especially poignant season’s end.
Just as Schuyler Mann’s Crimson career faded to twilight where it all began, Matt Vance’s burned anew.
“Great to see one of the hometown boys do well,” Mann laughed.
And then he strode off into the western sunset; it was dinner time with the family.
—Staff writer Alex McPhillips can be reached at email@example.com.