Beasts from the East

June 06, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

The second annual Imperial Valley Baseball 2002 Senior All-Star Game, to be played Friday in Imperial, is supposed to be nothing more than an all-star game where the Valley's best seniors showcase their talent in one last high school tilt.

But for some members of the East squad — made up of seniors from Calexico, Calipatria, Central Union and Holtville highs — the all-star game is a chance to prove themselves.

After going 11-1 in 2001 and winning the Imperial Valley League that year, the Calexico High baseball team took a bit of a dip in 2002, finishing 6-6 in league and tying for third with Imperial.

For the seniors from Calexico, the game gives them an opportunity to prove that their subpar year was nothing more than a fluke.


"What we want to do is prove that we can compete with everyone else. In the games that we played, we ended up losing some close games because of errors and mistakes, but I think we were just as good as anyone else," said 18-year-old J.P. Gonzalez, who was the team's No. 1 starting pitcher, finishing 2002 with a 1.61 ERA, 66 strikeouts, a .333 batting average, 16 runs, 16 RBI and a home run. "Even though we didn't have as good a season as we did last year and the year before, we want to prove that Calexico still has a good baseball program."

Joining Gonzalez from the Bulldogs are Albert Garcia, who finished with a .290 average, 11 runs and nine RBI, Max Leimgruber (.267, eight runs, three RBI), Damien Lopez (.342 batting average, 14 runs, 13 RBI, two home runs) and Jonathan Rangel, who had a .333 average with nine RBI and eight runs.

"We're going to try and prove that we should've finished better than what we did. I think people just think that we had only one good year or two good years and that was it, but we know we had a good team this year," said 17-year-old Lopez, who played first and third base for Calexico. "This is going to be a competitive game and we're not going to go out and just fold. We wanna go out on a good note … go out with a bang."

While the Bulldogs have a lot to prove, the players entering the contest with the most weight on their shoulders could possibly be the two players representing Calipatria, Sergio Flores and Hector Maciel.

Playing in the Desert Mountain League, the Hornets don't get to compete against the IVL teams — Brawley, Calexico, Central, Holtville, Imperial and Southwest — and generally don't get the respect they think they deserve.

So, Flores and Maciel enter the game with slight chips on their shoulders.

"We just want to prove that we're as good as them. Really, it's an honor to play with those guys, but at the same time it's a much bigger challenge for us," said the 17-year-old Flores, who had a .323 batting average, with 12 runs and eight RBI. "I've played with some of those guys before during (Little League and Babe Ruth) all-stars, but that was back when I was in eighth grade."

Said Maciel, 17, who had a .303 average with 15 RBI and 12 runs: "It's an honor to play with these guys and to be selected as an all-star. As much fun as we're going to have, we're still going in trying to represent Calipatria."

Rounding out the East all-stars are Central's Raul Cazares (.368, 13 runs, nine RBI, one home run), Victor Cesena (.283, 13 runs and nine RBI) and Dan Vella (.350 average with six RBI and five runs).

Representing Holtville will be Edward Castro, who finished the year with a .443 average, 19 runs, 15 RBI, two home runs, a 3.21 ERA and his league-leading 106 strikeouts, and Isaac Mejia, who finished with a .295 batting average with 13 RBI and nine runs.

Said 18-year-old Mejia: "This game should be fun for everyone playing in it. It's going to be fun, but there's going to be a lot of competition out there, so you definitely wanna step it up. For me, I really just want to have out there, but I also plan on doing my best and doing everything I can to help this team win."

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