In the baseball-rich culture of Elk Grove there’s one high school team that has struggled in that spring sport. Monterey Trail’s program has gone through four coaches in its relatively-short history and has won only 32 games over the past seven seasons.
The Mustangs have never won more than one league game in a single year. Since the first varsity season in 2007, their conference record is 3-88.
But, Jordan Vartanian has made it his mission the past couple years to change that. Blessed with excellent baseball talent, the Mustang senior has been a diamond-in-the-rough, so to speak, at the school he loves.
“I like to think of myself as the Michael Jordan of Monterey Trail baseball,” he proclaimed Friday after his team was blown out by Elk Grove, 14-3, in five innings.
He hit .431 in 2012 on a squad that averaged .201 as a team. So far this spring Vartanian is hitting .548 for a Mustang squad that is 2-12.
And, he’s encouraged with the improvement in the talent of the teammates.
|Monterey Trail shortstop|
Vartanian has been a one-man recruiter for the baseball team at Monterey Trail. He’s plucked several of the Mustangs’ talented football players out of spring workouts and brought them to the baseball diamond. That raw athleticism has helped, he says.
“We’re the underdogs and we try to come out and beat (the opponents),” Vartanian said.
Guys such as Jermaine Bell, Paul Gooden and Josias Stevens who would normally be in the weight room with football coach T. J. Ewing this time of year have donned the gloves and spikes and are making it a go for the Mustang baseball squad.
Last year, huge defensive end Leonard Wood, now a collegiate football player, was swinging the bat for the Mustangs.
Helping Vartanian to try to put games in the win column is older brother Nick. Nine years his elder, Nick was one of the starting pitchers on Elk Grove’s 2003 Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship team. He went on to play a couple years at CRC, then quit to learn the pipefitting trade.
Nick gets off the construction site each day in time to come help coach his younger brother’s team.
He likes to reflect on that 2003 Elk Grove team which featured him and David Hernandez, now one of the National League’s top set-up men.
“We were just a couple tall, skinny kids then,” Nick said.
He stays in touch with Hernandez occasionally and wishes, at times, he would have stuck with the sport like Hernandez did.
“I guess I wanted to get a job and make some money,” Vartanian said.
The income for a pipefitter is a bit more guaranteed than the dream of pitching professionally. But, Hernandez was one of the few to make it big.
The love of the sport is behind the Vartanian’s desire to try to build a program at Monterey Trail. Clearly their work is cut out for them with baseball powers such as Elk Grove, Franklin and Davis alongside of them in the Delta Valley Conference.
The younger Vartanian, despite the numerous team defeats over the past few years, has kept a positive attitude.
“This team humbles me a lot,” he said. “I like working with people like that and battle against the harder teams.”
Vartanian realizes he’s become a sort of trailblazer for Mustang baseball.
“I want to try to get people to go (to Monterey Trail),” he said “They’ll get some good coaching there.”
Jordan knows he’s in the spotlight right now and that if he can latch onto a college team it will be helpful to promote the Mustangs’ baseball program.
“If I can go somewhere out of Monterey Trail, maybe people will start coming out here saying, ‘He did it out of here,’” Vartanian said.
A few on the next level have noticed. A community college coach talked with Vartanian following Friday’s game.
He’s a shortstop and one of the best in the DVC. A year ago he was somehow left off the All-Conference First Team despite batting over .400.
This year has been forced to pitch, too. The Mustangs are a bit short of arms. Vartanian doesn’t seem to mind, especially with brother Nick helping.
He attributes his high school success to his older brother.
“He’s been working with me since I was little,” Jordan said. “He’s always been at all my games.”
Mustang head coach James Therriault couldn’t have two better allies.