Beyond Dave Henderson Field is a cotton field that Dos Palos baseball coach Kevin Jones has spent plenty of time in searching for baseballs.
“I bet this season alone we’ve lost about a dozen baseballs in that field,” Jones said. “Some of the balls that end up in the middle of the field I don’t even worry about.”
The main reason baseballs end up in the cotton field is Efrain Del Rio.
The Broncos’ 6-foot-5, 280-pound slugger clubbed nine home runs this year – just one off the school’s single-season record held by Leonard Davis and Adam Calvert.
“His batting practices are something to watch,” Jones said. “There are days where I’m picking up seven or eight baseballs in the cotton field.”
After helping lead the Broncos to a co-West Sierra League title and earning co-MVP honors, Del Rio is the Sun-Star Baseball Player of the Year.
Del Rio hit .418 with 40 RBIs in 27 games. He also went 10-4 with a 1.95 ERA.
“He’s one of those kids that comes around once every 20 years,” Jones said. “When the game is on the line he just gets better and better.”
Del Rio had plenty of highlights this season.
“It was my first time playing under the lights in high school and I took advantage of it,” Del Rio said. “It’s lot more exciting than playing in the day.”
“He’s a good kid,” Jones said. “He doesn’t talk much. He works hard. It’s amazing some of the things he can do as a 17-year-old kid in high school. Some of the things he does, it’s just like, wow.”
Del Rio’s nine home runs and 40 RBIs rank eighth and 10th in the state, respectively according to MaxPreps.
What’s it feel like when Del Rio knows he hit a homer right away?
“I really can’t describe the feeling,” he said. “I never watch it. I just put my head down and run until it goes over the fence.”
Game days are the only time Jones doesn’t have to spend time in the cotton field.
“If he hits a home run the little kids will go get it for him and bring it back to him,” Jones said. “If you ask him he’ll probably tell you he has a couple. I’d say he has a pretty good collection.”