It was a slice of heaven. In late winter, the sun was out—though La Jolla High head coach Gary Frank wore a sweatshirt to hit infield—the birds were chirping, and the ping of the aluminum bat meant baseball, with all its hope, had finally returned.
Devin Garcia, after a successful season with the Viking football team in the fall, was cracking people up with a funny accent from first base: “You want sunthing? It not gonna work.” Jake Klimkiewicz, a third-year starter in the infield, and still only a junior with a live bat, was lying about his weight after a reporter asked Garcia his football vs. baseball weight: “I weigh 220, too,” said the slim “Klim.” It just didn’t hold water.
And the loquacious Johnny Meyerott was greeting everyone as he usually does, chattering away in his trademark friendly matter. “Back from his broken hand, back again in the outfield,” Frank noted about Meyerott in a pre-practice conversation, holding his glee at this year’s prospects barely in check as he quoted statistics: “We returned 176 of 185 innings pitched from last year. Eighty-five percent of our at-bats are returning.”
What that means, in hard facts, is that the 2020 edition of the Vikings baseball squad, Frank’s 17th to stand atop the program’s history as the longest-tenured head coach, is led by 11 seniors. All but one position starter returned (Blaise Gimber, who graduated, in centerfield will be replaced by sophomore Connor Hobbs.)
“In the four years I’ve been here, it’s the most energized group I’ve seen,” said Koa Scott, who had a 1.88 earned run average last year on a squad that went 14-13 overall, 5-7 in league. Said outfielder/pitcher Devin Brown, another one of the seniors, “We’re definitely going to go harder this year.”
La Jolla’s offense, from the skipper’s view, looks like this: “Noah Brown, shortstop, is at the top of the lineup. Luke Brunette, at first base, follows. Gavin Graff will be somewhere in the middle of the lineup. Jake is coming off a year in which he hit almost .300. Koa has a lot of pop in his bat. Coop (McNally) is a four-year starter.” He rattles off the names of Devin Brown, Meyerott, and outfielder Calvin Hyytinen, as well as Hobbs, who “led the JV’s in batting last year.”
Noah Brown hit .338 last year. Brunette, a lefty first baseman who bats right, had 12 RBIs for third on the team. Graff, a tall right-hander on the mound, hit .355 with 16 RBIs to lead the Vikings.
Meyerott, trying to keep up with Hyytinen’s killer abdominal workout in the outfield, with leg lifters, crunches, and finally a plank following in rapid succession, offered, after he caught his breath, “With 21 players on the team, there’s a lot of competition. But it’s a friendly competition. You know if you don’t work hard, you’re going to lose your spot.”