On a spring afternoon so gloriously clear, sunny and beautiful, with surrounding hills a shimmering iridescent emerald, 20 Bronco players loosened up for practice with a spark of enthusiasm not heard in recent years around Coast Union baseball.
Luxuriant rains have painted the hills around the school an incredibly deep, impossibly rich color of green. Fortunately for head Bronco coach Brian Machado, there is nothing “green” about the Coast Union roster.
“We’ve got ten returning players from last season,” Machado said with his patented wry smile. Moreover, he has several strong arms that will see duty on the mound, including Clinton Almekinder, Trevor Cook, Jake Machado, Hunter Pope and Jaime Torres.
Is Machado optimistic, beyond just the predictably rosy predictions that every coach expresses every spring, from Little League to the Major Leagues? “Yes I am. These guys are wanting it. They think they’re ready for a roll.”
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Assistant coach Steve Kniffen agrees. “There’s a great corps of returning seniors. From there it’s just a matter of seeing how everyone else fits into the pegs.”
While last year’s Bronco win-loss record sounded like a convenience store (7-11), this year coaches and players plan to make it inconvenient for opponents to come to Coast Union. “If we win all the games we should win, and win one (of the three they play) against Mission Prep, that’s going to be a good season,” Kniffen stated.
He added, “If we win two against Mission, that will be a great season.”
Both coaches noted that no Coast Union team in any sport has made the playoffs this school year thus far. “We’re the last chance,” Machado said, momentarily forgetting that the softball, tennis and golf teams are playing as hard as they can to get into the postseason as well.
The ballgames that Coast Union lost last year — games that, based on talent, they figured to win — have the seniors on the team hungry to get another chance to go out winners.
As for what particular component of the game of baseball this team needs to concentrate on, Machado just said they need “time to work together as a team.” What is really important to the coaches — and to the success of the team — is having all the players show up for practice every afternoon.
Last year, Machado recalled, it was inconsistent attendance; “… nine showed up one day at practice, seven the next day, up to 11 the following day.” Clearly, Kniffen asserts, “The seniors are showing up every day and they have got whatever it was last year out of their system.”
Meanwhile, the Broncos scrimmage against Santa Maria Saturday (Feb. 27) at home at 11 a.m. They play their first regular season game at Avenal High School on March 5, and open the home season at Coast Union at 3:30 on March 9 against Templeton.
All home games and two away games—Morro Bay on March 11 and Mission Prep on May 14 —will be broadcast live on KTEA-FM (103.5), and stream live on www.ktea-fm.com.
— John FitzRandolph, special to The Cambrian