Cal star begins road to the majors

There haven’t been too many bad days in Tony Renda‘s baseball career. When he did have a forgettable day, his late father Frank would have let him hear about it.

Last Monday might not have been a bad day for Renda, but I’m sure he would have loved to have heard from his father. All the hard work had paid off.

Renda told SFBay he was in Monterey with his mother Larree at a golf tournament she was working at when he found out he had been drafted in the second round by the Washington Nationals:

“We were in the pro shop watching the TV at the bar and we had the internet hooked up, and the whole morning, I was getting calls from my advisor and teams and finally, you know the draft is going on and my advisor calls me and says ‘Hey, the Nationals want to go with you at pick 80. Will you agree to these terms?’ and I said ‘Ya, absolutely, let’s do it.”

Just a few short minutes later, Renda received a call from Fred Castello, a scout for the Nationals, who delivered the news:

“Congrats buddy, we just took you.”

The second baseman described the emotions that he felt when he received the news:

“It was awesome. A great, unbelievable experience. Just relief. All the stress went out of my body.”

While driving home Monday afternoon from Skyline College where he was doing some hitting, Renda took a few minutes to talk to SFBay just days before he embarked on the first stop of his professional career as a member of the Auburn Doubledays, the Nationals Class A affiliate in the New York-Penn League:

“I’m flying out tomorrow, I’m going to Washington D.C. They’re gonna give me a physical and I’m going to meet some people out there. I’m there on Wednesday and then Wednesday night, I fly to Syracuse and to go to Auburn.”

Translation: Renda will sign his first professional contract on Wednesday.

Auburn starts their season next Monday against the Batavia Muckdogs.

Renda thinks he will start playing right away, something he’s used to doing. During his three years in Berkeley, Renda started all 169 games the Bears played, including 54 games as a true freshman in 2010.

Renda excelled during his three years at Cal, especially with the bat. He leaves Cal with a .348 career average. His 244 hits rank sixth all-time in Cal history. As a freshman, Renda played mostly at third base, but it looks like he has found a home at second.

Renda owes his approach on the field to Skyline College assistant coach John Quintell, whom he’s been working with since he was 12 years old:

“He was the technical guy, he knew the swing, and the fielding and the throwing. He kinda took me under his wing since I was 12 years old and I’ve been going to him ever since. He has influenced the physical side of the game.”

The 2011 Pac-10 Player of the Year — only the fourth Cal player ever to earn the honor — has played through plenty of adversity.

During Cal’s run to the 2011 College World Series — when the baseball program was fighting off extinction — they could have won the College World Series and then had the baseball program eliminated. If that wasn’t enough, Renda lost his biggest influence in 2010. His father passed away due to lung cancer in June 2010:

“He [my dad] wasn’t a big mechanics guy, he didn’t know how to teach mechanics of the game, or the perfect way to hit or how to throw, but the mental side, he know how to get the best out of me. He demanded a lot out of me and wanted me to play to my potential because he knew what it was.”

Renda said his father never let him stew on a bad game:

“If I didn’t have a good day, I heard about it and it wasn’t really accepted. It pushed me to do better, to work harder, to play harder, to get another hit, to steal another bag, it pushed me to do that kind of stuff, to keep on getting better, striving to be really good.”

Scouts rave about Renda’s makeup on and off the field. When you stand just 5’8″ on a baseball field, you’ve got to excel in lots of areas. Prior to the draft, MLB.com prospect guru Jonathan Mayo wrote that he believes Renda’s makeup and playing style could carry him to the majors.

The Nationals PR department posted tweets with comments from their Director of Scouting Kris Kline after Renda was selected:

https://twitter.com/NationalsPR/status/210050008190427137

https://twitter.com/NationalsPR/status/210050285157093376

Now, the climb to the majors begins. Renda plans to show the Nationals what he can do on the field and work his way through the organization:

“For now, it’s ‘get out there and play and show them what you can do’ and we’ll deal with the small stuff later. You can always get better. I can always get better. I can get better at hitting, I can get better at defense. I can get better at every aspect of the game. And that’s what I intend to do.”