Javier Garcia and Tramane Moore spent several years as teammates on the Los Banos High School baseball and basketball teams. But on Feb. 18, Garcia stepped into a batter’s box wearing a Gavilan College uniform, just a few feet from where Moore was crouched down as catcher for City College of San Francisco.
“It was kind of weird, to be completely honest. But it was fun,” Garcia said. “I enjoyed those games playing against him, and we were just having a good time. He was kind of in the moment, but I took my bat and hit his shinguard, and he smiled and said, ‘Hey, what’s up, buddy.’ ”
Moore and Garcia are two of the four Los Banos High graduates that played college baseball this year – Derick Velazquez spent the year pitching at Fresno State, and Daniel McDonnell played sparingly for Merced College. Velazquez and McDonnell both graduated in 2011.
Velazquez’s college days are behind him, though, as he prepares to re-enter the Major League Baseball draft. He was drafted in the 15th round in 2012 after an 11-0 season for Merced College, but chose to play for Fresno State instead, where he has become a relief pitcher.
“For the most part, I got used to being a reliever,” said Velazquez, who spent his high school days as the ace starter and carried that role into his Merced College year. “I got a couple of spot starts and I didn’t do well. I think I found my future as a reliever. I just come out of the pen and pretty much blow it out for a couple of innings.
“There’s a lot of adrenaline, because the game is already – there’s a situation you’re coming into. When you start, there’s a quiet tempo. There’s a different mindset.”
When he joined the Bulldogs, Velazquez said the coaching staff made changes to his throwing motion, adjusting his place on the rubber and his step, while having him throw more over the top.
“I think it’s like half and half,” he said. “Some things benefited me, but I felt some things took away from what I had previously.”
After an All-Western Athletic Conference season in 2013, during which he went 4-2 in 17 appearances with a 4.40 earned-run average, Velazquez went 3-5 with a 4.79 ERA this spring as the Bulldogs went 28-29 and exited early in the Mountain West tournament. He says this season has taught him a lot.
“There’s a lot of great payers out there,” he said. “If a player has talent, that can only take you so far. You have to have the mental game. I feel that will help me out in pro ball next year.”
Moore and Garcia both graduated high school in 2012, and both spent a redshirt year at another college – Garcia at Monterey Peninsula College and Moore at Merced College – before finding their current homes. This year, Moore was named to the All-Golden Gate Conference second team after batting .263 in 95 at bats, with 16 runs, six doubles and eight steals.
“It means a lot actually, because I went to Merced College the previous year, and I got redshirted,” Moore said. “I was kind of mad, but looking back at it now, I’m glad I was redshirted, because all that hard work got me here in one of the toughest conferences in California.”
Garcia was ready to hang up his spikes after things didn’t work out in Monterey. He reached out to Modesto Junior College, and when he didn’t hear back, was ready to come home and spend time helping coach his sister’s basketball team. On a whim, he reached out to Gavilan coach Neal Andrade.
“I took a chance and the coach got back to me right away, and things went from there,” Garcia said. He spent most of the year as the team’s designated hitter, and played the outfield in a few games.
“It was a new experience for me. I played baseball my whole life, but it’s a different level of competition,” Garcia said. “You have to put in the work to get the results. Show up early to practice, stay after, hit in the cage, listen to the coaches. It was a huge jump, but I learned a lot this year.”
Garcia had another moment of clarity this season – playing against his old Monterey team, Garcia doubled, moved to third on a bunt and scored on an infield hit to score the only run of the game. He finished the season batting .218 with four doubles and a pair of triples.
“I didn’t have the best season,” he said. “I had glimpses of figuring it out, then I went into a slump.”
Neither Gavilan or San Francisco did well team-wise, going 12-24 and 8-28 respectfully. For Moore, the struggle was more off the field than on it – he rode his teammates’ couches for part of his first semester, and then winter hit.
“It’s really cold,” he said. “I wasn’t surprised, but I was more at a loss about how cold it is during the winter.”
Moore played much of his high school baseball as a backup catcher, playing second fiddle to McDonnell and then Tyler Slayday. When he played, it was mostly in the outfield. He has made the transition to JC baseball while also learning how to be a full-time catcher.
“It’s tough on the knees,” he said. “Now I know how to sit up right and all the other things a catcher needs to do.”
The next generation of college players is preparing to take flight from the local area, with LBHS center fielder Corbin Lilledahl planning to play for Chabot College, according to Tigers coach Pat Fuentes, and Dos Palos pitcher/infielder Adam Coronado planning to play for Merced College, per Dos Palos coach Kevin Jones.