By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Tyler Gaffney has turned in his baseball cleats for his football shoes. That comes as good news to the Stanford football team, which begins fall practice for the 2011 season on Monday.
While it's good news for the Cardinal, it's bad news for Palo Alto Oaks' baseball manager Steve Espinoza.
The Oaks will travel to Houston, Texas, on Tuesday for the AABC Stan Musial World Series. Palo Alto will open against the North Atlantic winner on Wednesday, but without Gaffney.
"Losing Gaffney is, of course, a big loss," said Espinoza. "He showed in the West Region that his bat can change the outcome of a game."
Gaffney scored three runs and drove in another in an 11-8 victory over the Bandido's in the championships game of the AABC Stan Musial Western States Regional at Jackie Robinson Field at Brookside Park in Pasadena on Sunday. That earned Palo Alto a second straight trip to the World Series.
In the second round on Saturday, Gaffney stroked two home runs in a 9-4 win in 11 innings over the Bandido's. The Oaks also defeated the Pasadena Redbirds, 15-2, to open the three-team playoffs.
This was Gaffney's first season with the Oaks and his contributions were indeed notable. Espinoza, however, knew he had Gaffney for only a limited time and had to share him with football workouts.
"We knew going in that he would not be able to participate (in the World Series), so we have prepared for his absence," said Espinoza, who was allowed to add three players for the postseason.
"I have picked up three pitchers along the way," Espinoza said. "I first picked up Dominic Hernandez (San Jose Baysox) for the NorCal playoffs. He pitched with us in the West Region, as well. For the World Series, I also picked up Craig Broussard and Jesse Madrid from the Norcal Longhorns. Broussard was the only pitcher to defeat us so far this season. That made his choice and easy one!
The Oaks will take a 20-1 record to the World Series, where they went 2-2 last summer and finished third. The team's only loss came in the opening round of the NorCal playoffs, a 1-0 setback to the Longhorns a game Gaffney missed due to football practice.
Espinoza still has plenty of talent and a core of veteran players for the return trip to Houston.
"I think the guys who have hung around for my eight seasons, guys like (Jason) Kleinhoffer, (Greg) Matson), (Bryan) Beres, and (Matt) Campbell do so because they love the game and can still play at a high level. If they couldn't, they wouldn't be on the team!"
The Oaks are now in a hurry-up mode to make expensive, last-minute travel plans to Texas. For those interested in supporting the Oaks' participation in the Stan Musial World Series this year, please contact head coach Steve Espinoza at email@example.com or make your check payable to 'Palo Alto Oaks' and send it to the Palo Alto Oaks c/o 1860 Wagner Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94043.