The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
Steve Pastora is on the verge of realizing the dream of playing Division-I baseball. But Tuesday afternoon, as he tossed a ball around at a park near his South San Francisco home, he was thrilled merely to be playing catch.
After an injury-plagued two-year career at College of San Mateo, Pastora last week committed to transfer to Western Michigan University. He will receive nearly a full athletic scholarship. He is one of seven Bulldogs to be transferring to a Division-I school.
Pastora had some D-I interest through his senior year at El Camino in 2013, despite his rough-around-the-edges persona. When he dislocated his non-throwing shoulder sliding into home plate during a senior showcase, however, any and all potential D-I suitors backed away.
“I had some offers, but I was actually very happy I went to junior college,” Pastora said. “I really got to mature more as a baseball player and really got to get my feet under me. I learned a lot in junior college and I’m very happy. Although (there were) some things I should have done better in high school, I made some mistakes and I really learned from them. And now I’m going to a four-year like I should have out of high school.”
On May 30, 2013, Pastora underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He recovered in time to play for CSM on opening day of 2014. And though he missed the final two weeks of the regular season with an ankle injury, the shoulder proved healthy into his sophomore year.
But then, with Pastora pacing the Bulldogs in two legs of the team Triple Crown this season, his CSM career was cut short. On March 19 at De Anza, he collided with the opposing shortstop, causing another dislocation of his left shoulder. On April 7, he underwent his second shoulder surgery in three years.
“My shoulder popped out, I was on the floor, I was in pain,” Pastora said. “The trainer came out and had to pop my shoulder back in. It was just a burning sensation down my shoulder.”
Even with his community college career being bookended by shoulder surgeries, Pastora chiseled quite a resume while on the diamond at CSM, posting a .352 career batting average while anchoring the hot corner.
He had to battle his way into the starting lineup as a freshman. Missing the entire fall ball season following his first surgery, Pastora played sparingly at the start of 2014. He logged just six at-bats through 10 non-conference games.
“I wasn’t 100 percent,” Pastora said. “But at the same time, I didn’t get the reps in the fall and there were guys ahead of me. They deserved a spot more than I did. And sure enough, when I got my turn, I just tried to do my best to get in there and do what I could and things happened to fall into place.”
After going 3 for 5 in his first Coast Conference start against De Anza, he was a fixture in the starting lineup until mid-April. Then on April 17 at Chabot, Pastora tore a ligament in his right ankle. He missed the final two weeks of the regular season, but returned with a heavily taped ankle to play in CSM’s regional playoff series at Santa Rosa Junior College.
The Bulldogs fell the Bear Cubs in the best-of-three series. Pastora went 2 for 11 at the plate while committing a critical throwing error while having difficulty setting his feet on a routine throw to first base in an eventual Game 2 loss.
Fast forward the 2015 playoffs, the Bulldogs found themselves travelling to face the same Bear Cubs team in a best-of-three super regional playoff series. And while Pastora was on the shelf, that didn’t stop him from making the road trip in support of his team. The Bulldogs got their payback, sweeping the Bear Cubs in two games.
“We knew going into that playoff, we were going to be facing some guys,” Pastora said. “Just to come out ahead on that field, after what they did, the way we swept Santa Rosa, no one was really expecting that.”
Pastora said he was on a six-month timetable to return to baseball activity following his second surgery. He was back on the field in three months. In that time, however, his college plans got turned upside down. Originally he had a verbal commitment with Sacramento State, but that fell through in June.
“Right after that happened, within five minutes I got a call from a school that was interested,” Pastora said.
Narrowing his choices down to the programs at Western Michigan and Southeast Missouri State University, he took official visits to each last week before opting to commit to play Broncos baseball in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“It just came down to those two schools and Western Michigan was just a better fit for me,” Pastora said.
According to Pastora, other CSM baseball transfers include: infielder Miles Mastrobuoni, University of Nevada-Reno; right-hander Sam Hellinger, Gonzaga University; center fielder Austin Lonestar, St. Mary’s; infielder Draco Roberts, San Francisco State; Tyler Carlson, Lewis-Clark State College; Dylan Isquirdo, Virginia Commonwealth University; left-hander Devin Mahoney, University of St. Louis; Brian Ransom, Menlo College; Johnny Palsha and Matt Gorgolinski, Sacramento State.