Saturday, February 03, 2018

Baseball starts Monday for high schoolers, Herd looks toward a fourth straight championship

Elk Grove head coach Jeff Carlson in the center surrounded by coaches and alumni of his program Saturday at the annual
First Pitch Dinner/Dance at the Sacramento Asian Foundation Center.

High School baseball teams will officially start preparation for the 2018 season on Monday. At Elk Grove High School, its baseball season starts every year the First Pitch Dinner/Dance, typically on the Saturday night prior. For the 22nd straight year, Herd baseball brought in baseball families, fans and alumni to enjoy great food Feb. 3 at the Sacramento Asian Foundation Center in Laguna West.

Yes, thousands of dollars were raised with live auction, silent auction, raffles and 50-50 contests, too. What has separated the Herd baseball fundraiser from most of the others is that Elk Grove's alumni includes many professional and college players who came through the Herd program attend the event. This year was no different.

Very few high school baseball coaches can brag he's got former players in the Majors. Jeff Carlson can. And, he's got three. They are J.D. Davis with the World Champion Houston Astros, David Hernandez, who just last week signed with the Cincinnati Reds, and David Freitas who goes to spring training in a couple weeks with the Seattle Mariners.

These guys, plus a few others, donated bats, jerseys and the like to the Herd fundraiser - autographed, of course - so their fame could add to the money coffers. Davis even got teammate Carlos Beltran to sign a bat. It drew a couple hundred dollars.

Just the presence of promising minor leaguers Derek Hill, a 2014 first round draft choice of the Detroit Tigers, David Smith, a 2013 grad who is now pitching in the Washington Nationals' farm system and Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals' 2016 first round selection, helped this year's Herd players, who were serving tables all night, realize the baseball program for which they play has to be one best ones in getting them ready for the next level of play.

Other minor leaguers that came through Carlson's stables include Rowdy Tellez, a power-hitting first baseman in the Toronto organization and Dom Nunez, a catcher with the Colorado Rockies. They weren't there, but Carlson had action photos of those two on the screen throughout the night.

In the college ranks, Elk Grove can boast of guys such as last year's Pac-12 player of the year, Nick Madigal of Oregon State, his twin brother Ty, a pitcher at St. Mary's College, Josh Urps, a shortstop at Sacramento State and Kevin Kyle, a pitcher at Delta College.

The current players will be looking to do something that no one in Division I baseball has done in this area, win four Sac-Joaquin Section championships in a row. What helps Carlson is that he's got a big portion of last year's squad back, led by San Jose State-bound pitcher Brian Freitas and UC-Davis signee Jake Jordan. Carlson's youngest son, Tanner, who is the shortstop, has inked with Long Beach State, too.

There are plenty of other top notch guys to fill out the roster, too. So, Carlson will start the season once again as the local baseball team to beat. Now, it's up to the others to try.

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