May 28, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Tustin’s Rodney Boone, ace of UCSB pitching staff, drafted by Cleveland Indians

Rodney Boone fires a pitch for UC Santa Barbara this past season. (Photo courtesy Zachary BonDurant/UCSB sports information)

Former Tustin High School baseball star Rodney Boone, who became the ace of the UC Santa Barbara pitching staff this past season, will get the chance to continue to pursue his dream of playing in the Major Leagues one day.

Boone, a 2018 Tustin High graduate, was selected in the eighth round Tuesday by the Cleveland Indians as the 246th player picked in the Major League Draft. Boone, who finished his sophomore year at UCSB will be joining Gaucho teammates Shane Bieber and Kyle Nelson, who were also drafted by the Indians. Another former Gaucho, pitcher Michael McGreevy from San Clemente, was a first round pick by the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Getting to the big leagues has been a dream of mine since I was a young kid,” Boone said Thursday. “As much as I have loved my time at UC Santa Barbara, I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to play at the next level. I am heading to Arizona Sunday to sign, get my physical and then get started. I am equally excited about the Indians organization: it is a perfect fit for me. I also have a lot of family in the Midwest.”

Boone, a left-hander, had quite a sophomore season for No. 23-ranked UC Santa Barbara this past season, helping the Gauchos advance to the Tucson Regional. He was named Big West pitcher of the weeks three times and four times in his career.

Boone was the co-Big West Pitcher of the Year this season along with Johnathan Lavallee of Long Beach State and was named second team All-American, first team All-West Region and first team all-conference. He led the league in wins with 11 and in strikeouts with 128 and was second in the league with an ERA of 2.31. Opposing teams in the Big West batted just .165 against Boone in 97 1/3 innings, the best mark by a pitcher in the league.

The strikeout mark was the most all-time in a single season for any Gaucho and Boone ranks second on the career list with 239.  Boone helped UCSB reach the Tuscon Regional and against Oklahoma State, he helped UCSB get the win allowing four hits in 7 1/3 innings and striking out 11. He was also named to the Rawlings All-Region first team.

Boone struck out 10 or more batters in five of his last nine starts.

As a freshman, Boone was 8-0 with 80 strikeouts and a 2.78 ERA. He was named the Big West Freshman of the Year that season and helped the Gauchos win their first Big West title in 33 years. He was also named a freshman All-American. In the 2020 season, shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, Boone had a 2.53 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings.

At Tustin High School, Boone established a reputation as an outstanding pitcher, teammate and competitor and according to his coach, former Tustin High coach Charles Chatman, Boone was “the ace of a staff that had three D1 arms.

“Rod is a special talent and an exceptional athlete and teammate,” Chatman said. “He will be as great a pro as he was a Tiller and a Gaucho. Hard work travels well and no one works harder than Rodney. He is a great representative of the Tiller family.”

Boone said he can look back fondly at his playing days with the Tillers.

“Best memories of Tustin High School was going to the Palm Desert Tournament in the winter time,” he said. “That was always a blast to spend the weekend with my teammates and coaches.”

But Boone was determined to continue his career on the next level and he wound up at UC Santa Barbara.

“I earned my scholarship through hard work and love of the game,” he said.

Now, Boone sets his goals on reaching the Major Leagues by applying the same principles.

“It will entail a lot of self betterment and perseverance through adversity,” he said.

UCSB statistics, background provided by Daniel Moebus-Bowles, UCSB Sports Communications

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com