That’s a nice scoreboard, and a nice-sized check, that was donated to the Culver City High baseball program, thanks to Grey Block Pizza. Photo courtesy of greyblockpizza.com
MY EXPERIENCES AT A CIF PLAYOFF GAME INVOLVING MY LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL’S BASEBALL TEAM
It had occurred to me that I had not really seen a high school baseball game in roughly thirty years.
I suppose the fact that I was cut from my school’s team in the 10th grade (and deservedly so, as my throwing arm was weaker than an eight-year old’s in a coach-pitch league) led to my relative disinterest in paying any real attention to any of the twelve high school teams that play baseball in my area; Los Angeles’ Westside.
Being that one goal of this website is to write about things that wouldn’t normally be covered elsewhere, I recently decided to check out a game at Culver City High School, not far from where I live.
I specifically wanted to observe the atmosphere surrounding high school baseball in SoCal, with Culver City’ Centaurs serving as an example of what it’s like, rather than merely give a recap of the game itself.
So on a recent breezy Friday afternoon I took a stroll to Culver City High’s baseball field (a really nice one with smooth, well-trimmed grass) to check out the Centaurs as they took on Elsinore High’s Tigers in a CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoff match, Culver City having won their league with an impressive 10-0 mark.
Despite the surprising lack of a snack bar, I was impressed at the atmosphere surrounding the game as the stands behind home plate were packed; I and many other folks had to stand the whole time, which I didn’t mind as it gave me the ability to walk around and observe.
The enthusiasm that the fans were showing for their Centaurs came not just from the team’s parents and relatives, but also from the many youngsters, fellow students as well as the group of little leaguers standing against the fence between the third base dugout and home plate.
As well as the many other fans who were there, including a former major league pitcher and a few people who I had known for a long time, making the trip from nearby Santa Monica to take in the game.
A guy who I once coached in little league when he was eight years old, who had a relative on the Culver team, recognized me during the latter part of the game as I was walking by; it was a nice reunion as he was with his five-month old son, telling me that he had another son going to Santa Monica High.
Suffice it to say that it made me feel a bit old, but also proud that someone who you knew as a child had turned out well as an adult.
Which is how all teachers and coaches feel when they see kids that they once taught or coached as adults made good.
The sound system, which was booming with various pop tunes, was an asset to the overall atmosphere, though I wished they had an announcer and a program with the team rosters available.
As for the game itself…
Culver’s ace pitcher made short work of Elsinore, pitching a three-hit shutout in the Centaurs’ 3-0 win which took a scant hour and forty minutes; I’ve always loved quick games like that.
As his fastball was in the 90-93 mile-an-hour range, there were a number of scouts with radar guns clocking him behind home plate; everyone I talked to was raving about him and how he’s a favorite to be a high round pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft.
Being a longtime baseball and softball guy, I was impressed with the young man, particularly the way he finished the game as his fastball was still hitting ninety-plus in the last inning.
Which is what big league teams love; if you’re an 18-year old who can hit 93 miles an hour and higher on the radar gun, you will be drafted by one of the 30 MLB clubs.
One thing I remember when the game ended and the two teams shook hands was how badly I felt for Elsinore’s seniors (nine according to what I was told).
Like every other high school kid whose graduation is imminent, they had not only played their last game in their Tigers uniform, it may well have been their last baseball game ever for at least some of them.
Which is always a sad but inevitable thing as I felt for those 12th graders.
All right, here’s my bottom line…
In a nutshell, I had a really good time at the game.
The atmosphere, while not quite at a Texas high school football “Friday Night Lights” intensity level – or even the intensity level at a Culver City High School football game – was of an enthusiastic nature that was endearing.
It was plain to see that those blue and while-clad bunch of adolescents were well supported by both the school and the community.
Which is a very nice thing in this day and age.
Culver City’s Centaur team lining up on the third base line before a game. Photo courtesy of culvercityobserver.com