Summer baseball options differ without Legion this season


Summer baseball for the high school boys, and older, on the Peninsula took a serious hit when American Legion Baseball's District 26 league (ages 16-19) folded.

Redwood City Post 105 jumped to the Palomino Division in Santa Clara, while Palo Alto Post 375 ceased to operate.

The long-standing Palo Alto Oaks, comprised of collegiate or post-collegiate players, has returned under the guidance of Daniel Palladino. It's demise a bit premature.

The Oaks, founded by Tony Makjavich, Palo Alto High alum Al Talboy and Monty Fyl Jr. 50 years ago, nearly went under after the 2014 season.

The Oaks are scheduled to host Bercovich Gold at Baylands Park both Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m.

Other teams playing locally are the Menlo Park Legends and the Pacific Union Financial Capitalists, who squared off on Sunday at Palo Alto High, with the Legends coming away with an 8-7 win.

The Caps, who play an independent schedule, are comprised of talented players who just graduated from high school.

One Caps player, shortstop Cole Stobbe out of Millard West in Omaha, was drafted in the third round by the Philadelphia Phillies (No. 78) in last week's MLB Draft and has already signed a professional contract.

Four other Caps were drafted in the later rounds and are slated to play for manager Mike Zirelli, who started the team four years ago.

Six players on the Caps' roster are committed to play baseball at Stanford, including Sacred Heart Prep grad Andrew Daschbach, who has played first base in PUF's first two games. Daschbach was drafted in by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 40th round.

"I told teams where I wanted to be picked and that didn't happen," Daschbach said. "Whoever wanted to pick me, it was a nice gesture. It kind of let me know I was on their radar. I appreciated that. We'll see what happens three years down the line."

Daschbach will play for Stanford baseball coach Mark Marquess, who announced recently the 2017 season will be his final year, which would end 41 seasons at the helm.

"I was definitely surprised," said Daschbach about Marquess stepping down. "I'm happy for him. He has had such a great career, so far. I hope we can help him go out out on top. I think they'll keep it an inside hire."

Zirelli made a point of recruiting Daschbach to play for the Caps. Daschbach has paid dividends, with a homer, two triples and two singles in the first two games.

"Daschbach is a tremendous player," Zirelli said. "He's very physical, but also athletic."

Also committed to Stanford is Caps catcher Maverick Handley, who gunned down a Legends runner trying to steal second in the second inning of Sunday's contest.

Starting pitcher Jack Little, also going to Stanford, worked the first three innings for PUF, allowing three runs on four hits, all in the second frame.

Third baseman Javier Valdez Jr., from Gulliver Prep in Miami, Fla., had a pair of doubles, driving in four runs. Valdez played a fine third base, handling some tough chances. Valdez will play baseball at Florida International.

"This team is surrounded by a lot of great players," said Valdez, as to why he traveled west to play summer baseball. "I felt it was a challenge for me throughout the summer. I can prove myself. I decided to make the trip. The weather is great."

Other players drafted for the Caps were shortstop Nick Quintana (11th round, Boston), pitcher Ryan Zeferjahn (37th round, Tampa Bay) and Stanford commit Daniel Bakst, a shortstop, drafted in the 27th round by the Orioles. Bakst prepped at Poly Prep Country Day in New York city.

The Caps play a California Collegiate League schedule, but cannot participate in the league playoffs.

"It's a long story," said Zirelli on why the Caps aren't in the league. "Bottom line, it's about sponsors of the CCL. We're a Peninsula team."

The Legends' tentacles stretched all the way to Louisville on Sunday when last year's catcher Sam Cohen, lined a walk-off grand slam to propel UC Santa Barbara to a 4-3 win over the host Cardinals to win the NCAA Super Regional. The Gauchos are making their first trip to the College World Series in Omaha and will meet Oklahoma State on Saturday.

The Legends, consisting of collegiate players, did not have anyone drafted in the recent draft. They have enough talent to make a run at the CCL North Division, said manager David Klein, a Menlo-Atherton grad.

"We have some big bats," Klein said. "We're coming together. I expect us to compete and win the North Division. It's all about having fun and working hard. If we get our skills to the next level, we'll win a lot of ball games."

Sean Watkins, a utility player at Loyola Marymount, picked up the win in relief against the Caps, working a perfect final two frames.

Thomas Caulfield, who pitches for Chicago State, is a Burlingame High grad, who transferred to Skyline College in San Bruno before toiling for the Cougars. Caulfield had a two-run homer and a double on Sunday.

Los Altos High grad Steven McLean, an infielder, hit .308 for Baylor this past spring, cracking a pair of doubles for the Legends on Sunday.

Outfielder-catcher Tyler Nelin went yard in the seventh inning against the Caps, racking up three RBI, including the game-winning single in the ninth. Nelin hit .254 for George Mason University in the spring.

Former Legend Dylan Cook, an All-American second baseman at Georgia College, signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend.

Cook, the Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year, is a graduate of Menlo-Atherton High. He hit .405 over his two seasons at Georgia College with 21 home runs, 114 RBI and 114 runs scored, while stealing 36 bases. Cook is considered the most decorated baseball player in Georgia College history.

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