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Kickin’ it

STOCKTON – Former Nevada Union soccer standout Chad Bartlomé was not unlike most young boys his age. His days were spent playing any number of sports and in doing so he dreamt of someday becoming a professional athlete.

Three weeks ago, Bartlomé’s childhood dreams officially became a reality as he signed his first professional soccer contract to play with the California Cougars.

“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Bartlomé said. “But I’m not satisfied with it (just signing a contract), I want it to be just a start for where I can go.”



The Cougars are based in Stockton, playing in the brand new Stockton Arena, and are one of six teams in the Major Indoor Soccer League. The other teams are located in Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

In its five-year history, the MISL has seen franchise cities change multiple times, but each time a team folds a new one has appeared in it place. And next season the league will add three more teams.




Bartlomé, who graduated from Nevada Union in 2001, headed to Oregon State University on a full-ride soccer scholarship after high school. He played his last game for the Beavers in the fall of 2004, but continued to stay in good soccer shape.

In the spring of 2005 he heard the rumors about the MISL starting an expansion team in Stockton.

“It seemed like a pretty good opportunity,” Bartlomé said he remembered thinking at the time.

But the Cougars were able to pick up players from existing teams in an expansion draft and with two teams folding had a shot at signing quite a few of those players.

In July, Bartlomé played on an all-star type squad that took on the newly formed Cougars. The team expressed interest in him, but was also in the middle of numerous trades and other player acquisitions.

Bartlomé was enrolled to finish his degree in liberal studies at Oregon State this fall, but withdrew in hopes that he would be playing soccer for the Cougars. After not hearing from the team for quite some time, Bartlomé began to doubt his future with the team.

He continued to stay busy, however, playing games at Samba Soccer, coaching youth teams and remodeling homes in Sacramento with his dad. Bartlomé was set to return to Oregon State in January, but toward the beginning of December received a call from the Cougars asking him to come train with the team.

He became a player in nearly every way in terms of practicing with the team and attending Cougar functions, but wasn’t signed and thus didn’t play in games.

Instead he took stats during the game, helped out here and there in the ticketing office and even made a few appearances as the Cougars’ mascot Tom Cat at local elementary schools.

January 24th Bartlomé was called in for a meeting with the coaches.

“I was like, “Cool this is it,” and thought they were finally going to sign me,” Bartlomé said. “But then they started in on this whole story about how they had to report to the league, information about developmental players. They said because they hadn’t done that with me they were going to have to release me.

“But then they were like, ‘Yeah, we were just messing with you, we want to sign you,’ – it was a big relief.”

Since he was signed, Bartlomé has played in five games, having missed the first 14 games of the 30-game season. Thus far his playing time has been fairly inconsistent as the team explores his role.

Bartlomé was originally recruited as a defender, but has played forward through the majority of his soccer career. But recently, the team has been using him in the forward rotation with an emphasis on high pressure defense while he’s in the game.

Indoor soccer is quite different than outdoor soccer, but some of Bartlomé’s strengths seem to lend themselves to the indoor game.

His footwork and ability to keep the ball close in such a fast-paced game help as well as his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame, which makes him a good target up front for his team.

With Bartlomé’s scholarship set to end after this year at Oregon State, he plans on returning to Corvalis in April to take the final 10 credits he needs to complete his degree. And since he will be in Oregon and wants to continue playing soccer, once the outdoor season starts he hopes to play with the Portland Timbers. The Timbers are part of the 12-team first division in the United Soccer League.

“I’m really hoping that this (playing with the Cougars) will give me the experience and credibility I need to go on and play outdoor professional soccer,” Bartlomé said.

ooo

To contact sportswriter Stacy Hicklin, she can be reached via e-mail at stacyh@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4244.


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