Who was that baseball player preparing to fire a ball at readers from the top of the front page of the San Luis Obispo Tribune Saturday, May 25? Sure looked familiar. He’s wearing red and gold colors and was in the act of hurling that white sphere with a bulldog’s passion.
Wait. Hold on. I’ll be darned if it wasn’t Grant Magnuson, ace Bronco pitcher, in the process of delivering one of his patented fastballs. Or maybe his sharp curve. This was a revelation. This was a revolution. Brass bands should play. Where are the Bronco bobble heads?
Well, the cover of the Tribune isn’t quite as prestigious as the cover of the Rolling Stone, or Time Magazine, but for little old Cambria-by-the-sea and Coast Union this must have been big, awe-inspiringly big, to put a Bronco on the banner of the county newspaper.
It was big. The Broncos were into their third playoff game, entertaining the top seed in the CIF Southern Section Division 7 last Friday, May 24. Try as they might, they couldn’t pull out a win, dropping a 3-1 decision to a school from Nuview Bridge in a place called Nuevo, well south of Riverside and just north of the San Diego County line.
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Heck, even the KSBY-TV sports reporter was on hand for the game. Video from a Coast Union baseball game on television? Yea sure, and the Oakland Raiders are building a new stadium in the Carissa Plains.
Talk about huge, I’m surprised the ghost of that iconic windbag Howard Cosell didn’t come blowing in on the steady, frosty, teeth-chattering wind that howls towards home plate from center field in huge gusts nearly every game.
Speaking of wind, intrepid fans that witnessed games in those cold bleachers — loyally subjecting themselves to glacial conditions — should all be given thermal parkas for next season with “I’m a survivor of blustery convection currents at Coast Union’s baseball field” silk-screened on the back.
It turns out that Coast was the only post-season baseball game in the county on Friday, so the media paid attention because this game was indeed big. (Speaking of big, Rhode Island is 1,214 square miles and Delaware is 2,491, but the land area in San Luis Obispo County is bigger at 3,298.57 square miles. Raise your hand if you already knew that.)
Meanwhile, seriously, losing one very big, very important game doesn’t a season make, and this reporter — along with my broadcast partner, the redoubtable Steve Spisak — had a blast (no pun) covering the Broncos through their 15-7 (10-0 in the Coast Valley League) 2013 season.
Our broadcasts — unfortunately interrupted by occasional technology glitches — were a joy to do. Not just because we are both huge baseball fans — and Steve is actually a softball player and a hitting instructor who has worked with several of the Broncos — but because it’s our town and hence our school and we love those kids.
Once the team got through the traditional early season hammering from bigger schools — the Broncos lost their first four pre-season games by a combined score of 36-5 — and into the Coast Valley League season, the boys of spring began to jell.
Talk about a teeter-totter-like turnaround, in their first four league games, Coast Union dominated opponents by a combined score of 51-7.
That clutch hitter Quinten Raethke belted the ball all over the place and pitched very well. Tommy Howard, Emmany Godinez, Gehrig Kniffen, Zander Stoothoff, Tommy Moreno, Alex Bautista, Austin Eide — and the gifted freshman catcher with the robust arm, Lane Sutherland — put it all out there on the line every game.
Spisak said “Next year they’re going to be a really good team because it’s all coming together. They’re going to have a solid, all-senior infield (Howard, Godinez, Raethke, and Magnuson) and a strong catcher in Sutherland.
“The kids have matured, and from the beginning to the end of this season it was like day and night. It’s going to be fun next year,” Spisak concluded.
That said, the fun actually continues later this year, when most of those baseball players lace up the spikes for Condor League eight-man football. After a warm-up game against Kings Christian, the season starts on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement for the Jewish community, which also happens to be Friday, Sept. 13.
For football players wearing red and gold, it will be a day to cast away superstitions and to embrace solid defense, positive yardage, and also a day to atone for that missed tackle that gave an opponent an easy touchdown last season.