Hideki Matsui's name was prevalent at the Merced College baseball practice on Monday.
Every where you looked there was a number 55 fielding, hitting and running down the base line.
The Blue Devils had received the Matsui T-shirts as a free giveaway when they attended last Sunday's Oakland A's game against the Seattle Mariners. As an act of solidarity, the team decided to wear the shirts at practice on Monday.
While any time bonding at the ballpark with teammates is going to make for enjoyable afternoon, this series had the added bonus of a pair of MC alumni participating.
Former Blue Devil and Golden Valley pitcher Doug Fister made his first start of the year for the Mariners, while former MC and Merced High relief pitcher Brian Fuentes was available to pitch out of the A's bullpen.
"It was a good day," MC head coach Chris Pedretti said. "Doug pitched well, and we thought we were going to see (Fuentes), but then the A's kind of broke it open and he never came into the game.
"Still good for the kids to see a pair of pros that started where they are now."
Bill Halpin was passing by the MC pool on April Fool's day when he noticed some unusual activity.
The MC men's and women's swim teams had gotten to the pool early that day, filling up water balloons and stashing them in the pool's gutters. The plan was to ambush their coaches at the start of practice.
Halpin called up fellow coaches Scott McCall and Susan Miller to hatch out a plan as to how they could foil the team's efforts.
With another full week to prepare for the school's final regular-season meet of the year, the trio ultimately decided to call off practice and not inform the kids.
"At 1:30 p.m. I finally got a call from Katie Elam asking if we were coming," Halpin said. "They waited around a full half hour after practice was supposed to start, before finally calling to see what was going on.
"I guess they ended up using the balloons on each other, but we thought it was a pretty good reverse joke."
Spring is in the air
MC football coach Bob Casey is set to hold his first spring football classes, with about 45 returning sophomores and redshirt freshmen expected to participate.
The Blue Devils will go three days a week for three weeks. The action begins the last week of April and runs through the first two weeks of May.
Brian Carbaugh earned Central Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week honors after tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings in two relief appearances against Reedley last week.
Carbaugh threw the final five shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out four to earn the win in a 10-9 come-from-behind victory.
Best of the best
Jake Sisco's name appears at the top of a couple state categories after Tuesday night's 7-4 victory over Taft.
The MC freshman pitcher is tied with two others for the state lead with seven victories and padded his strikeout lead with another 10, moving him up to 76 on the year.
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.