The Pico Rivera air coalesced as an immense excitement filled the field. The small-town baseball players, observant and enthusiastic, watch as their team player slowly rises to the plate. With fixed determination and steady eyesight, he whacks the ball out and into the fan-filled bleachers, a legendary hit that earns the team a spot in the Florida League High School Invitational.
El Rancho High was admitted to this annual event. Considering that in the past seven years only three California high schools have attended this tournament, being accepted into this invitational is a dream come true for this high school. “This is a big step for our high school because it shows that El Rancho baseball players can compete with players from all over the country. We are very proud to have been accepted into this tournament,” says varsity coach Frank Llanes.
Getting in was not easy. Llanes had to go through and submit an application to enter the tournament. “We saw that there was an opening for the tournament and we applied to get in. Before we could be accepted, we had to show individual and team statistics,” says Llanes. “We had to show how many league championships we had won and how we have done in the playoffs over the past four years,” Llanes adds.
Llanes has two goals that he hopes the team will accomplish by going on this tournament. “Our first goal is to really bond as a team and come back from this journey more united than when we left. Our second goal is to win the tournament,” says Llanes.
Third baseman Manuel Mercado along with his teammates hope to go beyond simply winning a tournament. “Other than winning the tournament, we’d like to make our presence known by scouts of teams at the college level,” says Mercado.
Outfielder Nelson Guirado has similar goals to those of his coach and his teammates. “Other than being able to win the championship, we hope to gain a competitive edge on the rest of the teams in the Del Rio League,” says Guirado. “Being able to grow as a team and facing tough competition will allow us to be better prepared to take the Del Rio League by storm and to our eventual goal of winning a CIF title.”
The baseball team is preparing for this tournament as they prepare for all of their games and tournaments.
“We don’t change our preparation. Our basic philosophy is to develop the fundamentals of the game and get better at the basics than anyone else,” says Llanes. “Good things happen when you do things the right way and believe in what you are doing.”
Guirado and Mercado believe that their coaches trained them exceptionally well for the tournament. “Our coaches are doing an excellent job in preparing the team for the trip as we have constant defensive, offensive, and base running drills. As long as the team remains humble and performs what we learned in practice our team should have a successful run in the tournament,” says Guirado.
“We are putting our heads down and working hard at practice knowing that it will all pay off in the end,” Mercado adds.
Llanes has taken note of the strengths and weaknesses of the team over the past few games.
“The team this year is solid because we have great pitching and defense, three very fast players in the outfield, and all the starting infielders from last year,” says Llanes. “Our hitting is a little behind but we will improve as long as we believe in the fundamentals that we work on every day.”