As the 2017 local prep high school baseball season moves fully into league play, there’s little doubt as to which team looks like the best in the Garden Grove-Huntington Beach-Westminster area. That team happens to play in what’s the best league as well.
Huntington Beach High’s Oilers are off to a 7-0 start. Benjamin Medure’s team looks to erase the somewhat underperforming 2016 season of 18-11 with a run to dominance not only in the Sunset League, but also to national status.
The orange-and-black are ranked not only first in the CIF-SS Division 1 poll for last week (the new ones come out Monday afternoon) but were fourth in California in Maxpreps.com’s rankings and 51st in the nation. A different poll of prep sports writers puts them sixth in the USA.
Outscoring their opponents at a rate of 47-10 so far, the Oilers sent a message Friday by slamming their likely chief rivals for the Sunset crown by a 7-0 margin. Los Alamitos (7-3) has a good team, but wasn’t able to stay close in their first showdown.
The whole Sunset League is loaded this year. All six teams have winning records; the “worst” team is Marina at a solid 6-5 mark.
HBHS is led by Hagen Danner, a long-ball hitter and a solid pitcher as well. He’s a 6-foot, 1-inch, 185-lb. senior who has a history of performing well on a big stage. When he was 12, he starred on the Ocean View Little League team that won the Little League World Series in 2011, hitting the game-winning homer. Against Orange Lutheran – ranked third in the nation – Danner hit two home runs to help defeat the Lancers earlier this month.
He’s committed to UCLA, and is considered a “premium” big league prospect.
Elsewhere around the areas, the league races look fairly even. No team looks to dominate in the Empire, Garden Grove or Golden West leagues. The best records so far in those races are Kennedy (Empire) at 4-3, La Quinta (Grove) at 5-3 and Segerstrom (Golden West) at 6-4.
League softball action starts this week. We’ll take a look at that sport next Monday.
WHILE we are on the subject of baseball, much attention has been given to the length of today’s big league baseball games. Once averaging about two hours each, the typical game now stretches to nearly four hours, and some observers are saying out loud what many long-time fans have been thinking privately: America’s pastime is getting too slow and – dare we say it? – boring.
I have been a hard-core baseball fan since I was 12 and enjoyed playing all variations of the game, but I have to agree. It’s time to restore some snap and briskness to the game, or run the risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant to generations of kids who were weaned on fast-action video games and other forms of instant gratification.
Yes, I know, there is much to enjoy in the venerable rhythms of the game. The cat-and-mouse battles between pitcher and batter. The tension that builds when the manager brings in a new reliever with the bases loaded in the ninth. The time-honored ritual of players tossing the ball around at the beginning of an inning.
But, my friends, baseball is entertainment first and foremost. The big money is in TV rights, and few things are more snooze-worthy than watching a MLB game on the tube.
So, here are my suggestions to speed things up.
- Pitchers have 30 seconds to deliver a throw to home. Set up a timer on the scoreboard with a loud buzzer. Can’t beat the clock? Ball one. Can’t beat the clock a second time in the inning? Balk.
- Batters – barring injury – can only call time out and step out of the box one time per at-bat. If they violate that rule, strike. Do it twice and they are called out.
- Relief pitchers get three warmup throws. The bullpen is for warming up.
- Managers or pitching coaches get one trip to the mound per inning. Can’t count to two? Ball one.
- Pitchers get a maximum of two pickoff throws to first per batter. The third is a balk.
These may seem like radical changes to some, but can you imagine an NFL game in which a new QB gets eight on-field throws to warm up? Consider Mike McCarthy walking out to the line of scrimmage to give advice to Aaron Rodgers.
Yes, I know, all these little quirks of baseball add to the game’s charm. Players like them. I liked them. But as a spectator, I find them just too much of nothing. Put baseball on a diet, or see its lunch eaten by a more quick-moving game, like golf.
Monday Morning Coach is written by Pete Zarustica.