Cal sophomore catcher Brett Cumberland, a 2014 graduate of Turlock High, was named the Pacific-12 Conference Player of the Year on Thursday.
Cumberland, the Stanislaus District Player of the Year two seasons ago, led the Pac-12 in home runs (16), RBIs (51) and slugging percentage (.678). He ranked second in on-base percentage (.480) and total bases (122) and was fifth in runs (46) and sixth in batting average (.344).
“I have pretty high expectations for myself,” said Cumberland, who will play for the Brewster Whitecaps this summer in the Cape Cod League. “But being labeled as the (top) player in the Pac-12 was fairly shocking.”
Cumberland is the fifth Golden Bear to earn the honor, joining Tony Renda (2011), Troy Penix (1992), Jon Zuber (1992) and Rod Booker (1980). He was also named third-team All-America by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper on Thursday, and on Wednesday was tabbed as one of 25 semifinalists for the prestigious Golden Spikes Award by USA Baseball.
“Never in my life did I think I’d be a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award,” said Cumberland. “But I don’t really set those kinds of goals for myself. I just look to compete against myself. I just want to do better than I did last year and, ultimately, help my team win. That’s my main goal.
The Golden Spikes Award is given to the top amateur baseball player in the United States and Cumberland is one of just two Pac-12 players to make the semifinal list of 25, joining Washington pitcher Troy Rallings, who was named the Pac-12’s Pitcher of the Year on Thursday.
Past Golden Spikes Award winners include current Major League Baseball stars Kris Bryant (2013) of the Chicago Cubs, Bryce Harper (2010) and Stephen Strasburg (2009) both of the Washington Nationals, the Giants’ Buster Posey (2008), and Boston’s David Price (2007).
With the 2016 MLB Draft coming up on June 9-11, Cumberland could soon find himself playing professional baseball.
“I’ll have to make that decision this June because I’m sophomore-eligible,” said Cumberland. I want to start my career, but it all depends, on a multitude of things. Anything could change my opinion.”
Finalists for the Golden Spikes Award will be announced on June 13. Cumberland is also a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award, which is awarded each year to the nation's top catcher, and finalists for that honor will be announced on Monday.
At 32-21, Cumberland and Golden Bears did not qualify for the NCAA Regionals, but his brother, Ryan, an infielder at UC Santa Barbara still has an opportunity for the big prize. Ryan Cumberland, along with fellow Turlock alum Austin Bush, Beyer’s Dempsey Grover and Downey’s Devon Gradford all play for UC Santa Barbara. On Friday, Gradford and Bush were the heroes for the Gauchos against Washington. Gradford’s homer in the bottom of the 12th tied the score 2-2, and Bush’s homer in the 14th gave the Gauchos a 3-2 win in the NCAA’s Nashville regional.
The San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report.