Estevan Valencia, the longtime Redlands High baseball coach, had a significant answer on why that mountainside city to the east is clearly the area’s leader in diamond play.
Here’s the question:
Why, for instance, is Yucaipa so much more capably regarded in baseball than, say, its eastbound geographical neighboring community? That neighboring city, Beaumont, is a mere foul ball compared to Yucaipa.
Incredibly enough, Yucaipa baseball is a pantheon of success, ranging from its Little League legacies, Major League Baseball connections, both professional-bound and college-bound players, not to mention Yucaipa High’s handful of CIF championship appearances. Right next door sits Beaumont. Virtually no success at all.
“Jeff Stout,” said Valencia, referring to YHS’ baseball coach from 1976-2017.
Valencia might have nailed Stout’s enchantment over Yucaipa baseball.
“Think of it this way,” said Valencia, who spent two decades as either an assistant or head coach at Redlands:
“All those kids who played for Jeff Stout grew up and had families of their own, right?” asked Valencia.
“Their dads coached their kids’ Little League teams. Right?”
“Those dads coached their kids the Jeff Stout way. How to catch a ball. How to block a pitch. How to bat. How to cut the bases. Everything.”
Valencia said, “By the time they got to the high school, they were playing baseball the Jeff Stout way.”
Yucaipa provided a near handful of CIF Players of the Year — Warren “Pete” Bierma (1980), first-round MLB pick Tyrone Hill (1991), Mike Brown (1993) and Stout certainly had a hand in coaching Heaton, the 2018 winner who played for incoming coach Ralph Grajeda that season.
Throw in some outrageously gifted players — outfielder/infielder-turned catcher Corky Miller, or top tier draft picks like current major leaguers Taijuan Walker and Matt Davidson, plus classrooms full of college-bound and pro players.
“When (Stout) sat in the stands at Little League games,” said recently retired San Bernardino Valley College baseball coach Bill Mierzwik, “the level of intensity just rose. Everyone knew that was the guy you’d be playing high school baseball for someday.” Stout waved off such notions, but did recall a memorable Little League all-star game he attended.
“Tim Padgett (a former Stout player) told me about a kid I had to see,” said Stout. “He wanted to show me this kid. Yucaipa was playing at Riverside. I went to the game and sat behind home plate.
“This 12-year-old stud was pitching. He blew Riverside away. Then he turned around and hit a three-run homer to help win the game.”
It turned out to be Davidson who, in just a couple more years, would turn into the league MVP as a Yucaipa freshman.
“Tim took me over to introduce me to him,” said Stout. “Matt shook my hand like a grown-up would shake it. He shook my hand like a man.”
Davidson, now a slugging MLB infielder, belted a grand slam for Cincinnati last month in a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh. It’s the kind of talent Stout procured and produced at Yucaipa.
Footnote: Redlands East Valley came up with a maelstrom of talent during its heyday, battling Stout’s T-Birds with an array of its own level of talent.
Between 2003 and, say, 2015 or 2016, those REV-Yucaipa duels were sparkling. Every baseball fan worth his weight in that sport, crowded into each of those yards to watch the sparks fly.
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“So many ‘takeaways’ for our men to get better from Coach Keith Carter (offensive line coach, Tennessee Titans). My favorite was, ‘Do you live in a neighborhood or a brotherhood?’ ”
It was a “one-hour Webex” with the team, said University of Redlands coach Mike Maynard.
Think about this now:
On one hand, you have former Redlands High product Dave Aranda trying to build a Wisconsin defense to stop Heisman Trophy winning RB Derrick Henry.
Four years later, you have a former U of R assistant coach, Keith Carter, building an offensive line of blockers trying to create a pathway for Henry.
Footnote: Alabama, led by Henry’s 147 yards and three TDs, beat Wisconsin, 35-17, in that 2015 season-opener between the Crimson Tide and the Badgers.
Footnote II: Carter, who coached Redlands’ line in 2007 and 2008, just concluded his second season building Henry’s blocking corps, which has produced back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Too bad Aranda’s defensive coaching skills didn’t coincide with Carter’s offensive line-blocking schemes on the field.
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More from Twitter, this coming from former Citrus Valley golf coach Craig Phillips:
“CV golfer Samantha Stewart won state championship in 2014 at College of the Desert,” he noted.
This comes as a response to last week’s piece on Gina Umeck, Brandie Burton and Michele Lyford coming from a weak stable of golfers from San Bernardino County.
Truthfully, Stewart actually took sixth place for COD, the match played at Morro Bay Golf Club. Still a high-achieving finish.
Even adding Stewart to the list, it’s still a short list of high-level female golfers from this area.
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Redlands High catching product Jacob Nottingham, who’s been waiting for his chance at a regular big league job through stops with Houston, Oakland and now Milwaukee, stepped in for an injured Manny Piña last week. He homered off Pirates’ southpaw Derek Holland last Friday in a 9-1 win.
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