They spend their summer living with host families and bussing to games across Northern California.

Members of the Walnut Creek Crawdads get a little taste of the minor league baseball lifestyle while playing for the summer wood bat league team created four years ago by former junior college teammates Paul Hewitt and Marshall Murray.

The Crawdads play in the Far West League, which is made up of players from the junior college level to those playing on Division I teams.

They recently wrapped up a 12-16 season and sent three players to the league's inaugural All-Star game, which was played Tuesday in Marysville.

It's been a fun ride for Murray, the team's general manager, and Hewitt, the head coach, who started the team, as well as the nonprofit "More Than A Game" because they wanted to give back to the community and share with others the sport they both love.

The team, which plays its home games at Saint Mary's College, has grown considerably since its inaugural 2010 season when it was comprised almost exclusively of local players and played an independent schedule. Now, about half of the Crawdads come from out of the area to spend their summer living and playing baseball in Northern California against fairly high-level competition in the Far West League.


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"Families open up their homes and without them we couldn't pull this off," Hewitt said. "I think it's a very special thing for both the college guys and the families who host them. It definitely gives (the players) a glimpse into what their goals are and what they have to do."

The Crawdads were swept by Top Speed of Marin, the league's first-place team, in their final series of the year and just missed out on a playoff berth. But the season continued for Max Deering, Nikko Saenz and Frank Waliczek, who were named to the league's All-Star game.

Deering, a left-handed pitcher from Santa Clara University, posted an ERA of 1.87 in 24 innings pitched. Saenz, a conference rival of Deering from Saint Mary's College, hit .281 with 21 RBI and a team-best four homers this season.

Waliczek is one of the Crawdads' non-locals, but the lefty from Heartland Community College in Illinois was dominant on the mound with an ERA of 1.31 and 35 strikeouts in 34.1 innings pitched.

Some of the Crawdads' other major contributors do have Contra Costa County roots. De La Salle graduates Michael Brdar (Diablo Valley) and Allen Smoot (College of San Mateo) both hit over .300 and Michael Mann (Miramonte/UC San Diego) had a solid year.

Ronnie LaCour (DVC), Austin Lee (Delta) and Ben Krauth (DVC), all Northgate graduates, fared well on the mound.

Even though this season had a disappointing ending, Hewitt says the team gets better every year.

"We started off really hot and have kind of tailed off in the last couple of weeks," he said. "All in all, as an organization we keep progressing and it's exciting to see us grow and exciting to think about upcoming years."

Murray and Hewitt are hosting a baseball camp from Aug. 5-8 at Heather Farms in Walnut Creek with Crawdads coaches and players serving as instructors. For more information about the camp, visit walnutcreekcrawdads.com.

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