Photograph by Mattias de Los Rios
Berkeley High School’s (BHS) boys baseball season is back in action. Although the Yellow Jackets are only six weeks into the season, they have raced to first place in the West Alameda County league, an outstanding record of 13-2, and a ranking of third in the North Coast Section (NCS), according to MaxPreps.
Head Coach Curtis Sandeford was understandably positive, saying “[The] team is doing great, we got a good set of kids that are working hard.”
The team can be found practicing at Tim Moellering field almost every day, sometimes with three games a week. The team’s outstanding community and overall morale can largely be credited to this dedication.
Senior Justice Paraiso-Caceres, or as his teammates call him, “Dad” said, “I would definitely say our team is more tight this year. We know how to talk to each other and can open up.”
Team bonding is vital to sports and can make or break a team. With the strong sense of unity and togetherness, the BHS Yellow Jackets have managed to acquire early success. Junior pitcher Tyler Irwin echoed the strength of the community, adding that “The team atmosphere is great … and we all have a great time playing together.” The importance of a cohesive unit operating in a positive, nurturing environment can not be understated.
Caceres continued, saying, “I think the season has been better than last season, and that’s saying something considering last years team set school records. Our team [this year] is starting to play more like a team instead of individually like last year.”
As Caceres mentioned, Berkeley High’s baseball team had a near immaculate season last year. They won the most games since 2003, one player broke the home run record in a season, and they made it through the first round of NCS.
After graduating nine seniors, this season looked like an uphill battle from the beginning. However, some would argue that they had more individual talent than collectivism as a team. The Yellow Jackets have not encountered this obstacle thus far, and their ability to maintain success despite graduating a significant senior class bodes well for the future, considering that twelve influential players will graduate this year.
“This years team has more depth. We have more depth on the mound and collectively the group is solid,” said Coach Sandeford.
Although the team is extremely senior heavy, with twelve of the 24 players being seniors, Caceres says the team distinctly knows who their leaders are and what they want out of one another. Personally, Caceres hopes to use his experience to “teach them [non-seniors] how to balance time with both baseball and with school. And, to do it in an enjoyable way so that you aren’t constantly stressing about one or the other, but where you can find that perfect balance between the two.”
Any form of varsity sports requires a substantial amount of time, especially baseball, and keeping up with school makes it that much harder. Despite these difficulties, the team has so far beaten Encinal, Piedmont, Tennyson, Ms. Eden, and San Lorenzo in their league, strengthening their first place position.
Sandeford says, “we are now getting to the teeth of the league, so it’s going to be a challenge, because some teams [specifically rival Alameda High] are going to be coming after us.” However, Sandeford went on to say, “we just have to be humble and work hard every day in practice, and as long as we continue to do that we will be fine.”
Both Coach Sandeford and Caceres enthusiastically encourage the Berkeley High community to come out and watch the home games. “The goal is to win NCS,” Sandeford says, and BHS can help the team in doing that by showing support, which has been lacking thus far.
Ultimately the success of the season will come down to the boys’ performance in NCS, and their final league position. A deep run in NCS combined with a league triumph over long time rivals Alameda High is an ambitious, yet attainable goal. Perennial powerhouses De La Salle and Foothill will surely have something to say about that come playoff time, however.
The team’s 24 game home win streak came to an end on Wednesday, April 18 when the team collapsed in the final inning against BHS rival team Bishop O’Dowd.
Going into the latter half of the season, optimism surrounds the Yellow Jacket team, and rightly so. Irwin reinforced this sentiment, saying “We all get along really well … and I think that we are on our way to a successful season, and we have a great shot to win NCS this year.”