Thinking back to Nov. 11, a Veteran’s Day Wednesday, at a few area high school campuses, consider that some special events were taking place.
It was National Letter of Intent (NLI) signing day. It’s the kind of moment where every parent gets to take deep bows on behalf of their kids. They’re committing to a college. More importantly, those colleges are committing to their kids.
There’s more to it than batting, swimming, tackling or getting up and down in two out of a bunker.
Grades are important.
Said Redlands East Valley volleyball player, Oziomachukwu Ozonoh ⎯ aka Ozzie: “If you think for a second that grades don’t matter, then you’re short-changing the process.”
Ozzie is bound for Villanova.
Redlands East Valley landed a softball player, Ozzie, plus a golfer and a baseball player into the collegiate ranks on NLI Day. Another already-committed athlete, swimmer Samantha Nickell, lost her chance for Boise State when that school shut down swimming and diving.
COVID-19 and all, right? It’s okay. Nickell wound up at Hawaii. More on her, I hope, is to come. COVID, incidentally, really affected athletic recruiting; that’s an entirely separate column.
Redlands High landed a softball player at St. Mary’s College up north.
REV landed a baseball player at that same campus.
Then there’s Citrus Valley High School.
When their two best softball players ⎯ Ella Nadeau and Mika Lee ⎯ signed last week, one thing flew off the charts at everyone.
Nadeau signed at Stanford.
Lee signed at UC Berkeley.
They’re Bay Area rivals in the same Pacific-12 Conference.
Not that UCLA and USC will ever have that problem in softball. Incredibly, USC doesn’t even have the women’s fastpitch game. If you’re thinking the same thing I am, it’s probably, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
No softball at fashionable USC?
It’s the most fashionable game for women. Fashionable, that is, next to soccer and volleyball, plus the aquatics and track & field.
No softball at USC is like not having a baseball stadium in Los Angeles.
“I think,” said Lee, “we should get a petition going.”
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Scholarships for athletes aren’t always what you think.
Most are not ⎯ repeat, NOT ⎯ a full-ride athletic scholarship. It’s why grades are so important.
Redlands High’s Lindsay Cabral, bound for St. Mary’s to play softball, says her scholarship is a mixture of athletic money, academic money and grants ⎯ totaling around $40,000. Since it costs around $70,000 a year to attend St. Mary’s, she’ll probably make up the remaining amount through student loans.
That’s a normal occurrence.
Outgoing Redlands High softball coach Brandon Ford, who took the open position at REV, says he can recall just one player, Texas’ Kimberly Bruins, who got a full athletic scholarship.
Under Ford’s watch, Redlands has sent nearly 60 ballplayers into NCAA Division I ranks. So he would know.
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Four signed on the dotted at Yucaipa, counting a USC-bound baseball player, a couple water polo players and a heady softball player who chose Providence College over a couple of Ivy League schools.
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Caiden Huber, who swings left and plays shortstop, is that Yucaipa High kid who signed at USC ⎯ that is, if he doesn’t get drafted by a MLB team this summer.
If anyone out there knows Danny Davidsmeier, a longstanding private hitting instructor who roams the area, he was the inspiration that helped land Huber as a Trojan.
Davidsmeier is an interesting story.
He goes far enough back in Yucaipa High baseball history that he preceded 44-year coach Jeff Stout. Davidsmeier played his college ball at USC before the Milwaukee Brewers drafted the NCAA All-American middle infielder in 1981.
If there’s anyone out there who knows baseball from that era, consider that the Brewers had Robin Yount at shortstop and Paul Molitor playing second base at that time.
Both men eventually landed in baseball’s Hall of Fame. It’s also logical to assume that their presence on the Brewers likely kept Davidsmeier in the minor leagues ⎯ never to surface in a MLB game.
But those college memories never go away.
At a USC alumni game in 2017, Davidsmeier mentioned to his old second base partner, then-coach Robert Batesol, that he had a stud player in mind for the Trojans.
Batesol told Davidsmeier, “Have him come to our Christmas camp.”
Huber was a freshman. He was a Davidsmeier protégé. The Trojans were so high on this 5-foot-10, 150-pound kid, that he committed to USC as a ninth-grader.
We might have a story on Huber on these pages in weeks to come.
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The truth, readers?
I’ve spent time with Nadeau and Lee, Huber, Ozzie, plus REV golfer Tayler Muchmore, Cabral and Kenzie San Pedro.
Trust me on this: Each one has interesting stories to tell.
I’ll start lining up stories in weeks ahead on those kids; maybe one a week through the holidays.
Here’s a note on REV southpaw baseball pitcher Chase Dabbs, bound for St. Mary’s: It’s the same campus that Highland’s Zach Kirtley wound up at back in 2015. Kirtley, an infielder, told me awhile back that St. Mary’s was his only NCAA Division I option.
Yes, grades were a factor. I spent time with Kirtley, who took my perfectly planned chat on baseball down the academic pathway, leaving me with no alternative as a writer.
Academic success put him on that professional field.
If he hadn’t been a solid student ⎯ grades checks at REV all through his prep days he’d have never gotten picked up by St. Mary’s.
No St. Mary’s, then there would’ve been no drafting by the St. Louis Cardinals. Kirtley spent three solid seasons in the Cards’ minor league system before they cut him loose in May.