The East Bay baseball program had its first winning season since 2001. (Photo courtesy of the East Bay baseball program.)

The East Bay High School baseball team has been hungry for a season like this one for a long time—20 years to be exact. The Indians’ last winning season was in 2001, when they made a regional finals appearance. This year has been a different story, as the club has racked up a record 15 regular season wins.

The Indians are led by former Bloomingdale baseball standout pitcher (2010-2013) and quarterback Cody Crouse. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the 19th round of the 2013 MLB draft but chose to play college baseball at Florida International University instead. He took over the East Bay program in 2020 after serving as the interim manager the season before.

The program has seen big returns since the hire. Crouse and his hand-selected core players have made it a point to change the culture of the team, minimizing distractions off the field and making good grades in the classroom. Crouse knew his team had a chance to have a quick turnaround and do something special.

“This season means a lot to me, due to the fact that last year we had our season cut short,” said Crouse. “My first year at East Bay, I wanted to make a statement. We ended up going 2-6 in eight games last year, but won our last two games, so we were headed in the right direction. This year was a chance to make that statement and give the county a chance to see what these boys can do. I think the boys wanted some respect and were tired of the name on their chest being dragged through the mud.”

Senior shortstop Jeremy Galen has been a key player for the Indians this season, hitting a team high .433 with 29 hits and 11 RBIs. Galen has seen his fair share of losses throughout his time at East Bay, but he said that it makes this season even more special to him.

“What makes me proud of my team Is the fact that we learned how to play together,” said Galen. “Once we learned how to play as a team, I knew our ball club would be tough to beat. I feel like it’s all about the ‘want to.’ When we show up and we want to win, we play as a team and get it done.”

Crouse is happy and grateful for his seniors, and he thinks that this season will set up his program for success in the future. Senior second baseman/pitcher Javy Lopez is thankful to be a part of this team that has made school history.

“It’s a great feeling to be a part of something special like this and go out senior year with this team,” said Lopez. “I want to thank all of my coaches and teammates that helped this team to get where it is now.”

Crouse’s goal for the season is to win a district championship, but said that his overall goal is to help his guys become better men and baseball players all-around, on and off the field.

“This season is one I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Crouse. “There’s been happy, sad and disappointing times, but it’s definitely one I will remember. These boys had an effect on my life that I will forever cherish, and I hope for nothing but the best for them in their futures.”

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.