Tag Archives: Josh Balos

Junior Bulldogs Baseball Camps Are Filled With Joy, Enthusiasm

By Rick Assad
 

 

An overcast sky gave way to an early morning sun as a dozen boys ages six through nine excitedly took the field for the fourth day of the first session of the Junior Bulldogs Baseball Camps at Burbank High on Thursday.

Dressed in baseball caps that ranged from the Dodgers to the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees, each attired in a blue Bulldog T-shirt, armed with sleek aluminum bats that were game-used and brand new and topped off with sleek-looking, pro-styled gloves, the group that included Landon Bailey, Grant Baker, Leo Beebe, Kalin Chin, Clarke Crowther, Kyle Doche, James Gentile, Max Recchia, Ryan Recchia, Dominick Sheetz, Clark Stanis and Dale Vantrease, eagerly took the field.

When asked if it’s fun to participate at the camp, Baker answered in the affirmative. “Of course,” said the nine-year-old who plays Little League for the Ninja Tigers and has a game on Saturday. “We did all kinds of games like over-the-line and four corners.”

For the dozen kids at the Junior Bulldogs Baseball Camps, it’s time to stretch. (Photo Courtesy Mike Graceffo)

Overseeing the camp is Bob Hart, the longtime coach of the Bulldogs along with assistant coach Tony Ciccone.

“I just enjoy instilling the joy of the game to them,” Hart said. “I find that very pure. Very simple. Adults can be complicated. Kids aren’t that complicated.”

Hart said some players actually began at these camps.

“I’ve had kids in my program currently that were in these camps,” he said. “There’s a lot of immeasurable amount of satisfaction in watching a kid who struggles early in the camp and then watching him evolve by the fifth day to the point where his self esteem starts to skyrocket and he feels like he has a place. He’s a contributor. Everyone wants to contribute. These kids are no different.”

Also assisting was Mike Graceffo, a longtime coach in Burbank, who retired from his job at the Parks and Recreation Department in 2016.

Five of Hart’s players were also there lending a hand and they included Jakob Duarte, Oaklee Spens, Justin Robinson, Josh Balos and Curtis Peters.

Here’s a youngster about to take his swings. (Photo Courtesy Mike Graceffo)

Spens has volunteered for these summer camps and has been assisting since he was a freshman.

“Yeah, it’s really fun,” said the junior center fielder who batted leadoff for the Bulldogs of working at the camps. “You kind of get to go back to how you grew up and see how they grow up. You get to teach them. It’s nice to give back.”

Spens then talked about how he developed a love for the game.

“I started really little,” he noted. “My grandpa started teaching me at a really young age. He’d take me to the park and I fell in love with it. It’s full circle.”

Duarte has also been involved with the camps since he was a freshman. “It gives you an opportunity to give back to the program a little,” said the junior first baseman/pitcher. “When I was a kid I went to these camps and thought it was really fun. Yeah, there’s a commonality between me and the kids. It’s still baseball.”

The three-hour camp began with the youngsters running around the baseball field just like the big-league players.

Then four lines with three boys in each line was formed as each stretched to make sure their muscles would be ready for the day’s activity which began with short toss.

It’s all about the team and of course teamwork. (Photo Courtesy Mike Graceffo)

Next on the agenda was the formation of three teams of four as each threw the ball to the next boy.

Once that was over there were two teams of six boys in a straight line as they each threw the ball to the next boy.

The winning team was judged by how fast and accurate the tosses were.

What followed was a simulated game with a Bulldog player taking a  knee and then tossing the ball underhand as each boy took his cuts.

If the ball was hit between the cones, it was a single. If it went further down the line, it was a double, but if it was caught, it was an out.

A young camper gets ready to field a grounder. (Photo Courtesy Mike Graceffo)

The day was capped with Graceffo, who has been a Burbank-area coach for 41 years, tossing the ball underhand to the boys in another simulated game, but this time running to the bases.

“I love it. I love just being with the kids. They keep you moving. They keep you young. I just love coaching baseball. They’re just so full of energy and life and they’re brutally honest,” Graceffo said. “They just love it. They just love being out here. There’s no motive with little ones. They’re just out here to play and have a good time.”

Graceffo then added: “One of the biggest things I find enjoyment in coaching is seeing kids develop,” he said. “Kids that I coached when they were six years old and now they’re young men doing great things in society and doing great things in their city and giving back to their community.”

There were a few breaks in between as the boys ate ice pops, drank water, talked about movies and of course baseball and baseball trivia.

There are three more sessions and boys and girls are welcome and will be held on June 17-21 for ages 11 through 14, July 15-19 for ages 6 through 10 and July 29-August 2 for ages 11 through 14.

For those parents interested, they can to go to www.burbankhighbaseball.org for more information.

Burbank Baseball Allows Nine-Run Fifth, Falls 15-5 To Pasadena

By Rick Assad

 

An early four-run cushion by the Burbank High baseball team wasn’t enough production against visiting Pasadena in a Pacific League game as it dropped a 15-5, five-inning decision on Tuesday afternoon.

During the nine-run, fifth-inning outburst, Pasadena sent 12 hitters to the plate with eight reaching on hits that included a grand slam to right field by sophomore Michael Gonzalez, who finished with three hits.

Gonzalez’s base hit to center in the second at-bat of the frame scored a run as did senior Robert Olivades, junior Jon Luke Goldman (two hits), sophomore Jesus Zuniga (two hits including a triple) and senior Christian Zambrano (two hits that included a three-base hit).

Down 10 runs and in order to avoid the 10-run mercy rule, Burbank needed to score at least a run and came close.

Andrew De La Torre was the starting pitcher in Tuesday’s 15-5 defeat to Pasadena. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Junior Dominik Severo led off with an infield hit, but was erased when junior Jakob Duarte bounced into a double play and when senior Cody Winters struck out looking, the game was over.

“We were missing a lot of pitches that were down and by us not finding that sweet spot, we were leaving the ball up and they were hitting the ball,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said. “I don’t think they’ve had that kind of offensive showing based on the stats that I’ve seen.”

Hart continued: “We didn’t deserve to win that game,” he noted. “It all works out the way it’s supposed to. When you get outplayed, you’re supposed to lose. And when you don’t do the basics, you’re supposed to lose.”

Burbank (7-12-1 and 7-4 in league) seized control 4-0 in the first stanza when it used three hits and a Pasadena error.

Junior Troy Lee’s two-out double to left center brought in junior Oaklee Spens (singled in the fourth inning), who reached on a two-base outfield error.

Senior Davis Mieliwocki was hit by a pitch and later came around to score on a single to center field by Severo.

Burbank stretched its lead to 4-0 on Winters’ double to left field that scored Lee and Severo.

Pasadena cut into the advantage 4-1 in the second when junior Hugo Escobedo lifted a sacrifice fly to left that brought home Zambrano, who lined a one-out triple to left center.

A four-run third inning by Pasadena (11-11 and 6-5 in league) made it 5-4 as 10 batters made their way to home plate that included three hits and two Burbank errors.

Senior Christian Perez’s scoring fly brought in sophomore Jackson Stuart, who doubled to left field to begin the inning.

Zambrano’s force out scored a run and Escobedo’s base hit to left field also knocked in a run.

Burbank, shown in a recent game against Crescenta Valley, committed three errors in a 15-5 loss to Pasadena. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“We’ve never had an offensive game like that today, so it was very fun to watch,” Pasadena coach Mike Parisi said. “We’ve been working hard on keeping the ball out of the air and trying to hit line drives and let the ball travel.”

Parisi, who was at Pasadena for eight years and two at La Salle, has guided the Bulldogs to the CIF Southern Section playoffs seven of the eight seasons, knows that nothing’s guaranteed.

“If you don’t come to play, any team can beat anybody,” he pointed out. “There’s a lot of baseball left. There’s three games left. Every game’s a dogfight. We’re fighting to get into the playoffs.”

Burbank, which committed three errors to a pair for Pasadena, leveled it at 5-5 in the third when senior Daniel Ruiz opened up with a single up the middle, took second base on an error, third on Lee’s single to right field and scored on Severo’s grounder.

Senior Andrew De La Torre ventured two and two-third innings while giving up four hits and one walk.

Junior Josh Balos worked one and one-third innings, surrendered four hits and absorbed the loss.

Sophomore Ryan King toured one-third of an inning and yielded five hits and a walk and senior Joey Clark went two-thirds of an inning and gave up two hits with a strikeout.

Goldman worked an inning, hit a batter, walked a batter and allowed three hits, senior Jordan Zach tossed three innings, striking out four with a walk and three hits allowed and was credited with the win and senior Gavin Nouskajian pitched one inning, gave up one hit and fanned one.

Burroughs, Burbank Baseball Teams Ready To Roar

By Rick Assad

 

Though the Pacific League hasn’t yet begun, it’s highly likely the Burroughs High and Burbank baseball teams will probably qualify for the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

The Indians and Bulldogs have deep and capable pitching staffs, which is a key factor in having a winning season.

One of Burroughs’ strengths will be its pitching staff, which boasts a dozen hurlers. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burroughs, which is looking to make the playoffs for a fifth straight year, has a dozen pitchers on the staff and all are capable of performing at a high level.

“This is one of our team strengths this year with 12 players able to toss the ball,” longtime Burroughs coach Craig Sherwood said. “While no one pitcher is dominant, there is a staff of very capable pitchers as well as situational pitchers that will be called upon constantly to get outs in big situations.”

If there is an ace it would be senior and three-year starter Nicco Chuidian, while last year’s Pacific League Pitcher of the Year, Xavier Dubon, is a submarine specialist and very effective.

If the Indians are in front and it’s late in the game, the closer and set-up men will be seniors Andres Salazar and Julian Jaramillo.

Burbank works on its defensive prowess. Defense and pitching will be two keys to success. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The long relievers will be senior submariner Michael Le and juniors Tobey Ho, Johnny Angel, Colgan Martin and Matthew Ziegler.

The rest of the Indians’ staff includes seniors Josh Hooker, Brandon Aguilar and Nathaniel Metz.

The Indians participated in three preseason tourneys and they include the prestigious Easton Tournament, which is loaded with talented teams, the Lancaster Rotary West Tournament hosted by Quartz Hill High and the Coach Bob Tournament in Arizona.

The Indians are 2-6, with a 6-5 decision over Lancaster in the Lancaster Rotary West tourney and an 8-1 triumph over Highland in the Quartz Hill tourney.

It’s a close one at first base when the Indians played a recent game against St. Francis. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burroughs will open the league portion with a game at Hoover on March 8.

Behind the plate will be sophomore James Turner and will be supported by junior Albert Prado.

Senior Collin Johnson will play first base, bat in the No. 3 hole and also packs a potent stick.

Johnson, who swings lefthanded, is a power hitter who hits for a high average and will be backed up by senior Chris Magoon.

Second base will be a strong battle between junior Devon Esquivel and senior Preston Lemus, a transfer from Arizona.

Burbank Coach Bob Hart hopes to see a lot of runs and hits during the season. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

When Jaramillo isn’t on the mound, he will toil at third base and will be backed up by junior Hyatt Entz, who played on the boys’ soccer team.

Brian Garcia, a junior all-league pick, will hold down shortstop and bat leadoff for the Indians.

Junior Jorge Gutierrez, who is capable of playing second base and third base, will also see action at shortstop.

Chuidian will play center field when not on the hill and backed up by Salazar and Le.

The rest of the outfield consists of seniors Dylan Rolando and Rio Lopez, and juniors Kevin Gutierrez and Ho.

The utility infielders are seniors Daniel Roman and Hoover transfer Christian Morales, while junior Angel can play in the infield and outfield.

If pitching is crucial to winning, then the Indians are definitely ready. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

The Bulldogs failed to make the playoffs last season, but did advance to the quarterfinals in 2017.

“We have that challenge now,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said of getting back to the postseason. “But they’re going to have to find and accept their roles.”

Hart said despite an 0-3-1 record including a 5-0 loss to powerful Harvard-Westlake in the Easton Tournament, he’s optimistic.

“That was a very respectable game to a very good team,” Hart said of the Wolverines. “I think we’re going to be okay.”

Like its crosstown rival, Burbank, which also had a 3-3 tie against Chatsworth, commence the league season at Muir on March 5, will depend on pitching and will be paced by senior Davis Mieliwocki, who throws 85 to 87 miles per hour.

The Bulldogs can lean heavily on skill, experience and a solid pitching staff. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

When not on the rubber, Mieliwocki, an all-league, second-team selection, is a steady and heady presence at third base.

Senior Joey Clark is also a key starter, while senior Andrew De La Torre, junior Jakob Duarte and sophomore Ryan King, who is the starting shortstop, will all need to be productive on the hill.

The rest of the pitching staff includes juniors Josh Balos, Willem Clendenin, while Troy Lee and King and Clark will be the primary closers.

The catching duties will primarily fall upon juniors Dominik Severo and Alberto Ayala.

Duarte, Lee and Clark will play first base, senior Kenny Won and junior Tyler LaMarsna will see action at second base and senior Daniel Ruiz will back up Mieliwocki at third base and senior Gevork Leklyan will also see time at third base.

Junior Oaklee Spens will patrol center field, De La Torre will play left field and junior Aidan Gonzalez will see time in left field.

The remainder of the outfield consists of seniors Cody Winters and Vincent Romano and juniors Justin Robinson and Adam Loera.