Greatest Day for Treasure Valley Baseball?
I opened the broadcast last night with the comment – July 17, 2012 could go down as the greatest day in baseball history for the Treasure Valley. I’d love to find another that would rival the excitement on the diamond in our community on a single given day. Maybe when the South Central Little League team went to the Little League World Series in 1999, maybe when The College of Idaho won the NAIA title in 1998, maybe one of the days in which the Hawks won a Northwest League title, maybe in 1967 when Caldwell’s Mike Garman was selected third overall in the MLB Draft.
None of those to me ranks with the two big storylines of yesterday – as most thought that the debut Izaac Garsez, a kid who grew up in Caldwell, led CHS to the 4A state tournament, then went on to a record-setting career at The C of I, would be the talk of the town. It was big news, but when even bigger news broke out of Los Angeles that former Borah High grad and University of Utah star Stephen Fife was called up by the Dodgers to make his MLB debut against Roy Halladay and the Phillies, it made it an amazing day. And it went off the charts when Fife tossed six innings of four-hit ball, outpitching Halladay, leaving with a 2-1 lead that was eventually blown by the LA bullpen. To cap the day, the Hawks won their second in a row, blanking Yakima, 5-0.
On the big picture, the Fife story is amazing – since Boise isn’t a hot bed of MLB talent. Rick Bauer, who spent parts of seven seasons in the big leagues, went to Centennial High – but wasn’t born in the Valley. Baltimore right-hander Jason Hammel went to Treasure Valley Community College, but was born in Washington. Bill Buckner lives in the Valley, but was originally from California. You have to go back to 1991 – 21 years, since a player born in the Treasure Valley played in a MLB game, that being infielder Vance Law, who played in Montreal, in Oakland, in Pittsburgh, and both Chicago teams from 1980-91, including hitting .293 with 11 homers and 78 RBI for the Cubs in 1988.
The story of Garsez for me is an amazing one, as I have watched him grow up before my eyes. A phenomenal athlete at Caldwell High – where he could have had a football scholarship, and a Division I baseball talent, he decided to stay home and play for Shawn Humberger at The C of I, alongside his brother Jacob (now a collegiate coach at Corban University). Garsez helped the Yotes to a 2010 NAIA Tournament berth (their first in eight years), then earned back-to-back NAIA West Player of the Year honors as a junior and senior – leading the NAIA with 12 triples this spring. He was a key contributor in the Coyotes’ run to the NAIA World Series, where his team was in the the same 10-team tournament as current teammates Mike Heesch and Lance Rymel. People asked me how it was going to be watching “Ike” take the field and it was a bit surreal to me, especially when he walked out onto the field just as the gates opened and 10 of his friends and teammates from college greeted him. I can’t be more proud of him – but in the same sense, it is now professional baseball and he has a job to do, and hopefully I’ll be able to brag about the hometown kid.
Even more impressive was the game on Tuesday, as James Pugliese tossed a gem, with Mike Heesch and Pete Levitt helping on a three-hit, 5-0 shutout of Yakima – keeping the Bears from clinching the Northwest League East Division pennant for at least one more day. Pugliese allowed just one hit, struck out five, and did a great job of mixing his fastball and off-speed stuff. Heesch has not allowed a run in each of his four two-inning appearances, while Levitt has turned the corner after a tough start to the season, putting up zeros for a third-straight apperance.
Trey Martin reached base five times, including two walks, and hit his third homer of the year, while Marco Hernandez drove in a pair with two singles – extending his hit streak to seven. Rock Shoulders has also quietly gone about his business, recording a two-hit game, and has now hit safely in 8-of-9.
The Hawks go for a sweep of Yakima tonight – and with just six games left in the first half, the Hawks are just two games back of Tri-City in the standings, and we all remember how Boise got to the playoffs last year after Tri-City won both halves, so every game is important.