When a high school baseball team starts a season 0-11, there’s every opportunity for the players to brood over each loss, lose their excitement for the game and even begin to quit before a game is over.
But, watching the Monterey Trail Mustangs during an 11-1, five-inning loss to Elk Grove Friday, no one could say there was anyone waving a white flag. First-year coach Kenny Munguia was still shouting out word of encouragement to his players, all the while they were hustling and making the routine plays just like the highly-touted Thundering Herd players.
“The kids are coming along,” Munguia said. “We don’t have any feeder programs in the area. The kids I am getting maybe have two to four years of experience in playing baseball … and this is Division I, it’s a strong division.”
“They are getting there. The strides they are making don’t reflect the scores.”
In the tough Delta Valley Conference with strong programs such as Davis, Franklin and the Herd, the Mustangs are taking their lumps this season. In three games with Elk Grove, they’ve been outscored 45-2. In its only game against Davis, Monterey Trail was defeated 17-0.
“In a game the other night against Franklin, we ran a double-cut that was perfect and I tell the kids, ‘That’s what we’re looking for,’” Munguia said.
But, Munguia has had to start all over, literally. The school in its six years of existence has put together a quality football program which has been in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division I championship game the past two years. The boys’ basketball team won its first playoff game this winter, but baseball hasn’t found its niche.
In the previous four seasons as a part of the Delta River League, the Mustangs finished in last place each year with a combined record of 2-58. They are now 0-6 in the DVC after Friday’s loss.
A veteran high school coach of 20 years, Munguia remains optimistic that he can build a quality baseball program at Monterey Trail just like his Elk Grove-area counterparts.
“What I’ve been doing is putting these kids in summer ball and also in fall ball,” Manguia said. “The only other thing I’ve got going for me is word-of-mouth.”
Numbers has been an issue this year for him. He had only 18 boys show up at the beginning of the spring which led Manguia to decide not to field a junior varsity squad. He thinks that will change next year.
“We put a feeler out at Edward Harris (Middle School) our feeder school and we had 16 kids show some interest,” he said. “We want to get them before they leave and encourage them to stick around, go to MT and play some baseball.”
Munguia coached the Sacramento High School Dragons for 16 years, spent a year at Vista del Lago and last season was an assistant coach at Christian Brothers. All this time, he balanced his coaching with a full-time job in the Parks Department at the City of Sacramento. He’s hoping his positive approach to coaching along with his knowledge of the fundamentals of the sport will lead to more boys wanting to play for him at Monterey Trail.
“I want them saying, ‘Coach Kenny is showing me baseball,’” he said. “I want the kids to enjoy the game. These kids, this year, are working hard.”
With open enrollment in the Elk Grove Unified School District and baseball programs at Pleasant Grove, Elk Grove and Franklin forced to make cuts to their rosters this spring, Manguia thinks more baseball players may drift in his direction in coming years.
“I think we’re a couple years away from getting players from some of the junior programs,” he said. “I’d love for them to come. I’ve got a good coaching staff of men who were with me for several years, Wayne Weinheimer and Andy Fox, guys who were with me at Sac High.”
“But, if kids are into prestige affiliation, then go ahead and try to get into the lineup and sit. If you come to Monterey Trail, you’ll play some baseball. One thing I teach to a kid is how to be a good citizen and giving back to the community, but along the way, we learn some baseball, too.”
In the short term, Manguia likes the players he currently has on the roster.
“I’ve got a good core of juniors coming back,” he said. “If we get a good crop of new players coming in, then we can make some noise in the next year or two years.”