Strong contingent of players from California high schools will take the field Tuesday in the World Series for the Atlanta Braves. The Houston Astros only have a couple from the Golden State, but many fans north and south will be very happy if Del Campo of Fair Oaks’ Dusty Baker gets a well-deserved ring as manager of the Astros.
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It’s been a few years — 2012 to be exact — since there have been nine or more California high school alums in the World Series, but that looks to be the total based on the active rosters for this year’s teams representing the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves (which did change on the morning of the first game on Tuesday).
California’s total in the World Series and those of the other two major baseball states in the USA — Texas and Florida — have dropped in recent years due to the emergence of players from Latin America and South America countries.
This year, with one player dropped on Tuesday, California’s nine is far ahead of Texas and Florida (which have four each). The international count among countries is Venezuela with five, Cuba with 5, Dominican Republic with 4, Puerto Rico (not counted as a state) with two and Panama with 1.
The Atlanta Braves, who eliminated the defending world champion Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night in the National League Championship Series, had eight on their active roster as of Monday, Oct. 25 from California. That went to seven on Tuesday, Oct. 26. The Houston Astros, who clinched their third World Series appearance in the last five years by winning the American League Championship Series over the Boston Red Sox. had two but are led by a popular (especially in Northern California) manager from the state.
Here is a look at each player plus one manager:
Jason Castro (Castro Valley) Astros
Regarded as one of the top prep catchers in the state from the Class of 2005, Castro went to Stanford following his career for the Trojans. He was the team’s MVP as a junior, and then got drafted by the Astros. He just returned to the team for the 2021 season as a free agent after playing for three other MLB teams previously.
Jesse Chavez (A.B. Miller, Fontana) Braves
The veteran reliever, who is 38 years old and has been with several MLB teams in his career, will get a chance to pitch in the World Series for the first time. He is the first player from A.B. Miller who has been on a World Series roster. The city of Fontana was represented 20 years ago by Fontana High’s Greg Colbrunn (played for Arizona D-Backs).
Travis d’Arnaud (Lakewood) Braves
This is the second time that Lakewood’s d’Arnaud has been in the World Series and will be a starting catcher. The first was in 2015 for the New York Mets (lost to Royals). That also was part of a three-year streak of Lakewood grads playing in the fall classic after Mike Carp in 2013 and Matt Duffy in 2014.
Freddie Freeman (El Modena, Orange) Braves
The 2020 National League MVP and five-time All-Star first baseman for Atlanta is still strongly connected to El Modena. According to TV coverage just last week, Freeman still works out at the school in the offseason. El Modena’s coach when he went there, Steve Bernard, also helped him deal with the death of his mother from melanoma. Freeman was the 2007 Orange County Register Player of the Year and was first team all-state.
Max Fried (Studio City Harvard-Westlake) Braves
He’ll be part of a solid top three starting pitcher rotation for Atlanta. At Harvard-Westlake, of course, Max is known for being part of a three-person group of pitchers who are all now prominent MLB starters. The other two are Lucas Giolito of the White Sox and Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals. Fried, who transferred into Harvard-Westlake from Montclair Prep of Van Nuys after his junior season there, is the first of the big three who will pitch in the World Series.
Dylan Lee (Dinuba) Braves
Just in September, Lee was promoted to the MLB level for the first time after starring as a lefty reliever for the Braves’ AAA club in Gwinnett (Ga.). He was the Central Sequoia League MVP for the Emperors in 2012, but was not recruited and later emerged as a D1 prospect at College of the Sequoias. He then became a standout at Fresno State.
Tyler Matzek (Capistrano Valley, Mission Viejo) Braves
He comes from the same program of legendary head coach Bob Zamora (now retired) that had starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks of the Chicago Cubs just five years ago. Matzek, who has become one of the major aces out of the Braves’ bullpen, will always be known by us as having the best final game to a prep career that we’ve ever seen. That was in the 2009 CIFSS D1 championship game at Angels Stadium. Matzek not only pitched most of a shutout vs. Edison of Huntington Beach, but he homered at the stadium for the game’s only run. For his hitting and pitching accomplishments, Tyler was the 2009 Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year.
Joc Pederson (Palo Alto) Braves
The one they’ve been calling “Joctober” for his postseason success this year and in the past for the Dodgers was an all-state player at Palo Alto in 2010. Football wide receiver star Davante Adams was coming up at Paly not far behind him. Pederson could become just the ninth player in baseball history to win back-to-back world series playing for two different teams. The last to do that was Ben Zobrist (Royals 2015, Cubs 2016).
Blake Taylor (Dana Hills, Dana Point) Astros
He was once a player to be named later in a trade in 2014 from the Pirates to the New York Mets. Taylor also has pitched for the national team of Great Britain. He earned his first MLB save in 2020.
Jacob Webb (Riverside Poly) Braves
Unfortunately, Jacob was one of two Braves who were dropped from their 25-man roster on the morning of game one. It would have been the third straight year that Riverside Poly has had an alum in the world series. Webb, a reliever, would have followed catcher Austin Barnes of the Dodgers from last year and outfielder Jake Marisnick of the Astros from 2019. Dusty Baker also attended Riverside Poly (along with Bobby Bonds) before he and his family moved to the Sacramento area.
Manager: Dusty Baker (Del Campo, Fair Oaks) Astros
He was a charter member inductee into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2010. We were lucky enough to sit next to him for most of the night and were impressed how interested he was in finding out about the others who were also being inducted that night. Baker, who was a multi-sport star athlete in the late 1960s at Del Campo, has been a manager in the World Series before (in 2002 for the San Francisco Giants) and has made history for managing five different teams to divisional titles (also Cubs, Reds & Nationals). With his NorCal roots (son Darren was a standout at Jesuit of Carmichael and Cal) plus being a former Dodger and growing up in Riverside, it’s easy to see why so many Californians are pulling for him to get his first World Series crown.
Note: Braves’ manager Brian Snitker is from Illinois.