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Amaris Harrison is Changing the Baseball Culture at Muir

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

There’s something magical about the number 37 for Amaris Harrison. The senior second baseman for Muir’s varsity baseball squad led the team with 37 hits, 37 runs and 37 stolen bases last season.

Harrison led Muir to an 18-8 record last year and helped the school end a 30 year playoff drought. Muir played three games in the postseason, including a wild card berth, losing in the second round.

“It was a tough season. There were a lot of ups and downs. It was like a roller coaster almost,” Harrison said. “There were a lot of family problems throughout the whole team, but we rebounded from that and finished off strong. We needed a lot of luck to get into the playoffs, but we made it and that’s all we care about.”

Harrison said he and his fellow seniors worked hard to change the baseball culture at Muir, from a struggling program to a winning one.

“It’s been good, just a little different, being the under dog. I’ve played for a lot of winning teams so coming into Muir my freshman year was different,” Harrison said. “The team is going to be young this year, but with the few seniors we have, we plan on teaching them how we played over the past few years. We want them to get that same mentality and we’re hoping to make the playoffs again this year.”

A big incentive to succeed on the field looms in the hallways of Muir in the form of Jackie Robinson, one of the most famous baseball players and athletes of all time, the man who broke the color barrier in professional baseball and changed sports culture forever.

“He inspires me a lot,” Harrison said. “It’s a really good feeling to go to his school. He’s up in the hallways and we have his number up on our scoreboard. It’s good because it gives us something to prove everyday. It’s a lot on our back, but we’ve learned to play with it and it’s a nice feeling.”

While his team goal is to get Muir back to the playoffs and hopefully grab a title, Harrison has some lofty personal goals as well.

“Last year I had 37 hits, 37 runs and 37 stolen bases. This year I want to have 50 hits, 50 runs and 50 stolen bases,” Harrison said. “I want to be better each year than I was the year before.”

While 37 hits might not sound like much to the average baseball fan, it is important to remember that the high school schedule is about one-seventh of the professional schedule. Harrison’s 37 hits translated to a .457 BA, a .564 OBP and a 1.083 OPS, all team highs and seriously high stats.

Harrison has grown into the player he is today after 13 years of practice through little league, club, and now his fourth year on varsity. He plans to continue to play ball in college, although he isn’t sure where at yet. He does know he wants to stay in Southern California to keep close to family.

After college, Harrison aims to play professional baseball, maybe for the Atlanta Braves, his favorite team. He compared his play to Ozzie Albies, the Braves’ second baseman who has a similar stature at 5-foot-8. However, after some reflection, Harrison changed his answer.

“My all time favorite player from the past that I see in myself is Adonis Harrison. He was a very flashy infielder that hits left-handed and throws right-handed just like me and displayed excitement to the crowd,” Harrison said. “I’m hoping to be like him one day.”

Dustin Allen Leads On and Off the Field

This article was originally published in the Arcadia Weekly.

Senior outfielder Dustin Allen is a leader on and off the field for the Arcadia Apaches varsity baseball team. Allen leads by example with his play where he led the team with a .410 batting average last year.

“Last season went really well for me, although it started out rough. I struggled at the plate. I had trouble finding myself for the first few games of the season,” Allen said. “Coming out of that was a great learning experience, having to work my way out of that rough patch.”

Allen rebounded in a big way, collecting 34 hits, scoring 28 runs, drawing 13 walks and stealing 13 bases, all team highs. These numbers led to a .495 OBP, second on the team, and a 1.122 OPS, highest on the team.

Allen spends most of his time in the outfield, although he is a strong left-handed reliever as well. Although he struggled his sophomore year on the mound, he found his stride and tossed 33.2 innings without allowing an earned run last year. Allen allowed 14 hits and 10 walks, which combined are less than the 32 batters he struck out.

Allen said the best moment of the season came when the team won league.

“I was on the team the past couple years and it was heartbreaking to lose league in such dramatic fashions,” Allen said. “To win league finally and share the joy with my teammates was pretty awesome.”

In his mind, there was one factor that led to Arcadia grabbing their first league title in more than five years.

“The whole team was really close last year. We had a really good bond with each other that showed on and off the field,” Allen said. “We had each other’s backs and picked each other up.”

Although Arcadia captured league and had a nearly perfect 25-2 record, they fell in the second round of the CIF-SS Division II postseason tournament.

“The ball just didn’t bounce our way that day,” Allen said. “That’s definitely a goal for this season, to correct that, play harder and win the CIF final.”

As far as personal goals go, Allen is mainly focused on getting stronger, bulking up.

“I’m about 175 [pounds] now, but I want to get up to 190,” Allen said.

The added muscle mass would help Allen increase his power behind the plate where he notched six doubles, three triples and two home runs last year.

Allen plans on playing baseball in college, but is not closed to the possibility of going pro out of high school.

“It depends on the spot I’m in draft-wise,” Allen said. “I’m definitely aiming on going to college, but we’ll never know until the time comes.”

Allen plans on studying criminal justice or sports management in college, both careers he could see himself going into and both careers his family has gone into. His grandfather was involved in criminal justice and his father played minor league baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

Allen aims to play professional baseball like his father, although he would rather play for his favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“That would be a dream come true,” he said.

Player Profile: Mikey Easter

This article was originally published in the Arcadia Weekly.

Mikey Easter wants to play professional baseball one day for his favorite club, the New York Yankees. For now, he’s content tearing it up at the high school level for Arcadia. 

Easter started playing when he was five years old. His whole family, from his grandparents to his parents, are all huge baseball fans. Easter recalls getting baseball toys when he was little.

“I would practice swinging in the living room with my dad when I was two,” Easter said.

Easter started out playing tee ball, then little league and travel ball. He still plays club baseball for CBA Marucci. Easter plays first base and catcher.

“I like both, but I prefer catcher,” Easter said. “I feel like I’m in every play and I have my pitcher’s back at all times. I feel like I’m more of a leader behind the plate than I am at first.”

Easter said he has a decent arm, but his best strengths as a catcher are framing and calming his pitcher down in tough situations.

This year Easter was one of Arcadia’s top hitters, as a sophomore. His batting average of .389 was the third highest on the team and he had the highest on base percentage at .516. Easter had 32 RBIs, 8 doubles, 3 triples and scored 18 runs. 

Although Arcadia fell short in the playoffs, Easter said the season as a whole still went really well. 

“We got one of our goals done, winning the Pacific League. We hadn’t won that since 2011. Bringing the Pacific League title back to Arcadia was a big deal for us,” Easter said. “I’ll always remember dogpiling on the field after clinching the league title.”

Easter is already in contact with a couple NCAA Division I schools, but he has not committed to one yet. He plans to stay on the West Coast for college, but isn’t tied to Southern California. Easter said he wants to major in business or sports management in college, although his ultimate goal is to go pro.

“It’s pretty far away, but I want to play pro ball. That’s been my goal ever since I was little,” Easter said. “Hopefully for the Yankees. My grandpa is a huge Yankees fan and I used to watch a lot of games with him when I was little and my parents were at work. That’s why they’re my team.”

When he’s not playing baseball, Easter enjoys hanging out with his friends or squeezing in a round of golf.

Although the season is still several months away, Easter is already preparing for it.

“This summer I’ve been going to the gym a lot, hitting the weights, hopefully hit more doubles and home runs next season,” Easter said. “I want to help the team win any way we can.”

Player Profile: Polytechnic Runner Evan Hayes

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

Until his freshman year at Polytechnic, Evan Hayes had never been into running. Then he joined the cross country team and discovered a new passion.

“When I started, I was kind of reluctant to run a lot,” Hayes said. “But the past couple summers I got into running every day, running longer distances and having really structured workout plans … Overall, I think I’ve become a lot more invested in running.”

Hayes, who is entering his senior year, never looked back. He finished the season last year as one of Poly’s top runners. Hayes finished fifth in the league and qualified for CIF prelims, then CIF finals. 

“Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the state meet, but hopefully this year I can finish highly at CIF finals and qualify for the state meet,” Hayes said. 

Besides going to state, Hayes said his big goal for this season is for the whole team to qualify for CIF. He believes the team can do this because they have a lot of talented underclassmen.

Hayes also runs for Poly’s track team, participating in the 800-meter, the mile and the two mile races.

Although the season doesn’t start for several weeks, Hayes is already training.

“After track ended, I took a two week rest period before training,” Hayes said. “My coach and I set up a workout plan for the summer with weekly mileage targets. I’ve been running in the high 30s and low 40s (miles per week) over the summer. By the end of summer, I hope to be running in the 50s or maybe even 60s to hit those goals of qualifying for state.”

After this year, Hayes plans to go to a small liberal arts school out of state.

“I kind of just want to get out of California,” Hayes said. “I love California, but I think it would be a good experience to get out for four years because I’ve lived in Southern California for my entire life. I think seeing a different part of the country would definitely be a good experience.”

Hayes doesn’t plan to run in college. He isn’t sure what he’s going to study yet, but he’s leaning towards history or economics because those are his favorite subjects at Poly.

For now though, Hayes is focused on training for this season. His summer will revolve around his running schedule.

“Most people don’t know how time consuming and how much energy you have to put into running long distance. They don’t understand the work I put into it,” Hayes said. “If you miss one workout, one run, that can have a big effect. You really have to watch the way you eat too. It does dominate your life a bit. It’s very taxing on your body. People don’t know how much time it takes to stay in shape for a runner.”

Player Profile: MHS Running Back Tyree Miles

This article originally appeared in the Monrovia Weekly.

Tyree Miles is excited for the Monrovia High School football season to begin. It will be his first and last season as a Wildcat.

Miles moved from Fontana earlier this year. He said the team has welcomed him in.

“It’s been a very good transition,” Miles said. “I love my team. I love my coaches.”

Miles plays three positions: running back, wide receiver and cornerback. He likes all three, but he favors running back.

“It’s a childhood favorite of mine. I’ve been playing it for the longest,” he said.

Miles has played football since he was five. He played all three years at his high school in Fontana and looks to contribute to the Monrovia team in a strong role. He said he’s been working on improving in the offseason.

“I’m trying to have better on the field vision,” Miles said. “I want to help the team win big this year. I want the team to be as good as we can and hopefully get a ring.”

Miles said his vision is his strongest trait as a running back. He compared his play to New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley.

“He just has really good vision and cuts,” Miles said. “That’s what I’m trying to get my game to be, his level.”

When he’s not playing football, Miles enjoys relaxing and watching other sports including soccer and basketball.

Preston Howey is Arcadia's Newest Ace

This article originally appeared in the Arcadia Weekly.

Preston Howey has video game numbers. The staff ace of Arcadia High School’s baseball team won 13 games last year and lost just one.

Howey began playing baseball when he was just 4 years old. After 13 years, he has developed elite pitching skills that culminated last season in a 0.75 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP and a 4.78/1 K/BB ratio. Howey ended the season with 65 innings pitched, 86 strikeouts, and allowed just seven earned runs.

“This year, I kind of just took off. It was crazy how it happened,” Howey said. “I put in a lot more work because I knew I had to step up my game. There were a lot of good returning pitchers coming back. I knew I had to step up to try to be the best I could. I put in the work and I guess it worked out this year.”

Howey started off the season with a bang, tossing a complete game shutout with 12 strikeouts.

“That was probably one of my favorite games I’ve ever pitched,” Howey said.

Howey would go on to toss one more complete game during the season, leading the Apaches to an overall 25-2 record.

During the offseason, Howey is working on improving his strength. He currently hits around 85-87 MPH with his fastball, but he topped out at 89 MPH.

“I want to consistently hit 88-89, maybe higher,” Howey said.

While his fastball isn’t quite where he wants it to be, Howey relies more on the off-speed pitches to get hitters. He said his favorite strikeout pitch is his slider.

When asked about a pro comparison, Howey named Houston Astros’ ace Justin Verlander.

“We have a pretty similar windup,” he said.

Although Howey wants to pitch in the MLB someday, ideally for his favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, he is currently focused on college. He has been in contact with different universities, but has not committed to a school yet.

When he is not playing baseball, Howey enjoys relaxing by going to the beach, hanging out with friends or listening to country music.

Thomas McConnell Aims to Break More Records for Poly Football

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

Thomas McConnell has high expectations for Polytechnic High School’s football team this year. A record breaking linebacker, McConnell brings veteran leadership as a senior with 11 years of football under his belt.

McConnell thinks the team will fare much better than last year when they won eight games, but lost in the first round of the CIF-SS playoffs. He projects the team will go deeper because they moved down two divisions, from Division 10 to Division 12, to play schools of comparable size, and because the team won’t face the same initial struggles they did last year.

“We lost a ton of really talented seniors before last season. We only have seven total seniors on the team. We initially dealt with a lot of behavior our coach was not a fan of,” McConnell said. “But we came together a lot toward the end of the year.”

McConnell recalled the highlight of the season, when Poly beat their rival, Rio Hondo Prep.

“That was where our season culminated. We really dominated that game,” McConnell said. “It was a good experience to come together as a team after working for the whole season to achieve our goal of beating our rival. That was a goal we had set for ourselves on the first day of camp. All our work paid off that day.”

Although Poly will start the season off with some harder games, McConnell thinks these will bring beneficial experience when the team goes to the postseason tournament. McConnell said the ultimate team goal is to win CIF; however, he is focusing on some personal goals for the time being.

“I improved a lot from sophomore year to junior year and I want to do the same this year. Last year I broke the school record for tackles in the season with around 112. This year, I want to tie or break my brother’s record for most tackles in a single game (18),” McConnell said.

After high school, McConnell plans to go to a top notch academic school. He currently has a 4.29 weighted GPA. McConnell said he might play football in college, but academics come first and he won’t sacrifice the academic experience for the athletic one.

When McConnell is not playing football, he enjoys hanging out with his friends, wakeboarding and shopping at thrift stores.

Although the season doesn’t start for more than a month, McConnell is already putting in the work to have another record breaking year.

Profile: Poly Golfer Maddy Kwei

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

Maddy Kwei loves golfing. The Polytechnic junior has golfed for nearly a decade, and she’s only 15 years old.

Kwei began playing golf at seven. Her mom enrolled her in a class and she instantly loved the sport and decided to stick with it. She started competing at 10-years-old.

During the school year, Kwei competes for Poly and in two other tours, the Southern California Professional Golfer’s Association (SCPGA) Junior Tour and the Future Champions Tour. She plays a tournament or two per month for the other tours during the school year, but the competition load ramps up immensely during the summer. Last week alone, she played in five tournaments.

Although it’s very time consuming, Kwei enjoys the tournaments.

“Golf is really great because unlike any other sport, you really get to know these people you play with for five or six hours every single tournament. Since you’re stuck with them the whole day, you kind of have to get to know them, talk to them,” Kwei said. “I know people from all around the world on a more personal level. That’s not something you find in any other sport.”

Most of the tournaments are within an hour’s distance, but some are farther. Kwei recently qualified for a three-day tournament in Palm Springs.

Kwei played in all 10 tournaments with Poly’s team last year, averaging a score of 38 on a nine-hole course. Although she did well, the team struggled at times.

“I definitely improved from last year,” Kwei said. “This year we lost a senior who was a big part of getting our scores, so that was different for our team. We had just enough players to play. But I’m glad the girls on the team are dedicated to high school golf. I think the team did pretty well considering we only had five players, so all of us had to always be there.”

This year, Kwei plans on recruiting a lot of freshman, so the team has more than five players.

Kwei plans on playing collegiate golf, although she doesn’t know where yet.

“California has great weather for golf, so I would love to stay here, but moving to the East Coast or the Northwest would be great too,” she said.

Kwei is interested in many fields, including international relations, communications, science and French. She isn’t sure which one she is going to major in yet, but she aims to minor in French because she loves French culture.

When she’s not golfing or at school, Kwei enjoys spending time with family and friends. She also loves to volunteer. Kwei volunteers at Fuller’s Family Daycare, where she has helped out over the summer since she was in seventh grade. Kwei also serves as the assistant lifestyle editor for Poly’s newspaper, Pawprint.

“People don’t know how hard working I am,” Kwei said. “I have goals and I’ll do anything it takes to reach them.”

Athlete Profile: MHD DB/WR Gaylen Wilson

This article originally appeared in the Monrovia Weekly.

Gaylen Wilson has been playing football for more than half his life. The Monrovia High School senior defensive back/wide receiver used his experience of playing since he was six to earn a spot of the varsity team during his sophomore year.

Wilson became inspired to play at such an early age after watching former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick play.

“I loved watching Michael Vick. Even though I’m a 49ers fan, I wanted to be like him,” Wilson said.

While Wilson sticks to DB/WR now, he has also played quarterback, running back, and other skilled positions over the years. He said he likes DB/WR the best, so he’s sticking to them. He doesn’t know which he will play yet in college, but  he does plan to play in college. He has been in conversation with a few coaches from NCAA Division I schools, but he is still waiting on a formal offer.

Wilson had more than 20 catches and 40 tackles last year, with an interception and two punt return touchdowns as well. He even had a kickoff return for more than 90 yards. He does it all.

“I love scoring touchdowns and dominating other people,” Wilson said.

This year, Wilson has set an even higher bar. He wants to have more than 10 touchdowns and five or more interceptions. Wilson compared his playing style to Oakland Raiders receiver Antonio Brown for his good routes and speed and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters for his ball hawking skills, always being around the ball.

A big factor in this will be Wilson’s speed. He is also a sprinter on the track team, running the 100-meter dash in under 11 seconds and the 200-meter dash in under 23 seconds.

Wherever he ends up in college, Wilson plans on studying law or science because the fields have strong job security.

“There’s a big need for them and they make a lot of money. I’m not sure which specific ones yet, but I want to end up in those fields,” Wilson said.

Although Wilson is not a huge player at 5-feet-10 and 170 pounds, he said he thinks a lot of people think he’s mean because of the way he walks around campus.

“Before they meet me, most people probably think I’m mean,” Wilson said. “But once you get to know me, I’m pretty nice.”

Zoey and Ella Mao Look to Continue Polytechnic Volleyball Success

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

Polytechnic’s girl’s volleyball team is led by a pair of star players who have built their chemistry on the court for more than seven years. Identical twin sisters Ella and Zoey Mao enter their senior year with high expectations for the team and for themselves.

The sisters, originally from Los Angeles, began playing volleyball in fourth grade and never looked back. Zoey said they tried a few other sports before, including soccer and swimming, but they both fell in love with volleyball. They started playing club volleyball one year later with the San Gabriel Valley Elite Volleyball Club, where they still play in Poly’s offseason.

Both sisters are committed to play at the University of Chicago next year. They accepted offers from the school earlier this year, although that wasn’t always the plan.

“I definitely didn’t want to go to the same college at first,” Zoey said. “I wanted to branch out, be more independent, but I’m excited now. I’m sure we’re going to have a great four years together.”

Zoey said the swinging factor was that both of their parents went to the University of Chicago, so they already had strong attachments to the school.

Both Ella and Zoey said they are very excited for the new season to begin. Poly’s team made it to the CIF-SS Division 4 finals last year, where they lost to Garces Memorial.

“We only lost two seniors, so the team is pretty much the same,” Ella said. “But we also moved up a division, so I know it’s going to be tougher. I want to win our division and win the Prep League.”

Although these are high expectations, Ella and Zoey are the two players most equipped to take the team deep into the CIF postseason again. Both have been stars on Poly’s varsity team since their freshman year. Both have played club volleyball for the better part of a decade. 

“We don’t really know anything different,” Ella said. “We’ve played together for so long and we’ll continue this year and for another four years after.”