Doing More Than Just Home RunsThursday, May 24, 2012 By By: Rocio Ramirez
When the varsity baseball job as coach opened up last year and Coach Graham Santiago didn’t get it, he felt like quitting. “I didn’t because I didn’t want to give up on these kids.” It was a good thing he didn’t because the first choice didn’t work out and Santiago took over the program. As much as the program has struggled, he feels like baseball at Alisal has grown and improved over the last two years. Proof of that was evident in their 4-0 start, a first in Santiago’s tenure. “I expected us to start 7-0 this year,” said Santiago. While the team actually started 6-1, his confidence was based on his 10 senior returners, most of whom had played all four years. Senior Michael Barron has been a major factor in the team’s success. He leads the team in every offensive category, as well as being the emotional and vocal leader of the team. “He's probably one of the best players on the team, and in the league, no matter what position he's placed in, he can be the best in that position,” said Santiago. “He would be the guy on any team.” The other key senior on the team, Aaron Herrera, makes contributions both on and off the field. “Aaron does a lot of things to make my job easier,” Santiago said. Herrera, who’s played for Santiago for the past three years, handles off field issues as the president of the baseball club and on field issues as an outfielder. “He’s a good ball player. His mind is always in the game,” said Santiago. While it’s a senior dominated team, two sophomores are making strong contributions, catcher Fernando Ramirez and outfielder/pitcher Lorenzo Novoa. Ramirez’s .350 batting average is second only to Barron, and Novoa is second on the teams in hits. Both players played a key role in a bounce back win against Soledad. “Lorenzo started the rally with a double and Fernando had the game winning hit,” said Santiago. Despite the hot start, including a win over perennial powerhouse Salinas (the first win over them in 16 years), the team hit a rough patch and lost 9 of 13, to be one game under 500. Their record as of now stands 10-14, . Santiago said he knew the league would be tough but he felt the team could finish in the upper half. “If we can go 6-4, we could qualify for the playoffs, or at the very least, finish above .500,” he said. Moving forward, Santiago wants the program to continue to grow by improving and gaining more support from the community. What might help most of all is the move to the equity league next year, where Alisal will more than likely be in the lower division. “I’d rather stay with the tough teams,” said Santiago, “but it will be a fresh start and give us a chance to build our program.” Regardless of how they finish, Santiago is more concerned about their success off the diamond. “My purpose isn’t just to teach them baseball, but how to be successful in anything they do."