Anyone For Baseball?

Culver City High Is Underway

By fred Altieri

Sports Reporter

Welcome to spring training 2015 – Centaur style.

Baseball has always been alive and well throughout the Westside and South Bay high school ballparks and practice fields. For Culver City High this season that includes incorporating the campus asphalt blacktops as renovations are being completed on its playing field and facilities.

While the Dodgers and Angels along with the 28 other Major League Baseball clubs are getting ready to open their training camps within a few weeks in Arizona and Florida the Culver High and other Southland ball teams have already been playing and preparing for the upcoming season.

Head coach Rick Prieto has the Culver varsity squad primed despite the unavailability of their home field and batting cages since the summer.

The Centaurs' ballpark is scheduled to be ready for practice on March 9. The season begins on Saturday, February 28.

Changes to the team's training routines have been kept at a minimum according to Coach Prieto: "We're doing everything we'd be doing if we had the field. There are just a couple of areas we need to be a little creative in: one is in facilities. Right now we're behind the tennis courts where the grass area is. We're playing our run, stretch and throw over there.

"And we're on the blacktop as well. What we're doing on the blacktop we can do on a regular field except it's downsized in terms of the distance that we do our drills. Today we did a drill where our runners at third base were working on tagging up.

"We set four cones, we divided the group into two's, one working on base running while the other catching a fly ball simulating it being hit in the games. So they were a getting live situation on the tags."

Coach continued: "We were working on being able to read the ball. Anything on the inside we try to get them with their left foot to the bag with their head turned inward. Then we change our footwork: right foot deep and now our head is looking over our right shoulder. We have one drill that sways into the foul territory near our batting cages towards the street side.

"So these are things we try to do here on the asphalt that we'd be doing on the big field anyway. That gives us a chance to stay baseball-prepared for games."

Drilling the three levels of Culver baseball teams together has provided other benefits to the program, especially for the junior varsity and freshman players said Prieto: "Right now I think the lower level is having a really good opportunity to learn.

"They see the fast pace because we're moving a lot quicker than I'm sure they're accustomed to doing. They're also learning the terminology a lot quicker because I'm very repetitive in what we do at the varsity level."

Coach Prieto revealed his key players for the upcoming season including a deep pitching staff: "For pitching we have Jay Sterner, Nolan Martinez and Eli Bowie. We have quality guys like Eli Saucedo who's only a sophomore and Louie Ortega who's coming back as a senior.

"There is Michael Netzel, Hunter Hutchinson and Daniel Aceves who's also a sophomore. We've got eight guys that can throw any given day for me on the mound. For catcher we have Jacob Weiner, a junior, and we have two seniors: Price Campbell and David Ko.

"Jay Sterner is at first base and can also play any position in the outfield. When Jay's pitching I have the luxury of having Saucedo, Weiner or Martinez at first base. We have a senior, two juniors and sophomore there. So we're stacked at first base.

"Christian De Los Santos is our returning second baseman and Kelvin Murillo is returning at shortstop. Michael Netzel is our returning third baseman. He's only a junior so we're looking pretty good."

The Centaurs have kept the ball rolling since they last saw action during the 2014 CIF Playoffs. "I think it's fair to say that we're an experienced team. Our season ends in spring, we go into summer baseball. We play anywhere from 18 to 20 games,"

stated Prieto.

"Then we have our winter program and we play another 18 to 20 games. That gives us an opportunity to play at a high level because we're playing high-caliber Westside, South Bay teams. In terms of competition it's very strong. That's a huge experience for these kids."

Prieto has once again set up a tough schedule: "If this is not the strongest schedule in all the years I've been at Culver City High School it's probably the second toughest schedule. And I did it for a reason because I believe each and every one of these players can compete at the highest level... and more importantly beat the better teams in the South Bay and the Westside."

Coach concluded: "Now our spring is about to start. So we've had two seasons and that's what I mean about experience. That's just the way it is. It's a new season: 2014-15. Hey, we're ready to go."


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