A chance to impress

Aaron Parker
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier File Photo
Aaron Parker scoots to first base in a 2019 home game.

It is not in Aaron Parker’s nature to brag about his baseball abilities – his coach at Los Altos High, Gabe Stewart, called the senior a “modest fellow” – so he let his play do most of his talking in a league organized by area scouts.


Ecker scoots his way to Giants

Ecker
Courtesy of Suzanna mitchell/©S. F. Giants
Los Altos High graduate Donnie Ecker, center, joined the San Francisco Giants coaching staff after a year with the Reds.

In six years, Donnie Ecker has gone from coaching the baseball team at Los Altos High, his alma mater, to landing the job of hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants.

Anyone wondering if such a rapid rise in the coaching ranks has gone to Ecker’s head may first want to see how he commutes to work each day. The 34-year-old leaves his San Francisco hotel on an electric scooter and rides nearly 2 miles to OraclePark, where the Giants opened summer camp July 3 to prepare for a shortened season set to start Thursday.

“The joke is that you have the dream job and the keys to the castle – and you ride a scooter to work,” Ecker said. “I’m low maintenance.”

Baylor-bound Schott aspires to be an ace

By Pete Borello
Staff Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Pitcher Joey Schott estimated that nearly 50 colleges tried to recruit him during his time at St. Francis High, starting with an offer from San Jose State his freshman year. That recruitment ended last August when the Los Altos Hills resident announced he was going to play baseball at Baylor University.

Joey Schott” width=
Courtesy of Joey Schott
Joey Schott was named the West Catholic Athletic League Pitcher of the Year in 2019.

“After my official visit, I fell in love with Baylor,” said Schott, who graduated from St. Francis in May. “That was all I needed; I didn’t visit any other schools after that. I committed two or three weeks later.”

Schott, who had to wait until November to sign his National Letter of Intent, has a long list of reasons why the Bears are the right fit for him.

“They play in the perfect conference, the Big 12, which is one of the most dominant conferences,” he said. “I love the coaching staff; the pitching coach and head coach are both from California. The facilities are off the charts – I love the field, they have a great weight room and an amazing eating plan.”

Schott was supposed to travel to Texas early this month to start offseason training (classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 24), but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted those plans. Instead, he’s working out on his own.

“I’m throwing the ball around, but not as much as normal,” the right-handed starter said. “I still have a couple of months to get back into it. Baylor sends me a nice weekly plan with a bunch of running and some weight stuff.”

Sour end to SF career

Schott barely got a chance to pitch this spring. St. Francis’ season was canceled after four games due to the coronavirus pandemic, and he pitched in only one of them – briefly.

“I injured my arm in the first game. I felt some tightness in my elbow in the second inning and came out after facing only six batters,” he said. “The doctor told me it was just stress from my shoulder, and I did physical therapy and built it back up.”

What hurt more, according to Schott, was not being able to take the mound again for the Lancers – something he called “a huge disappointment.”

The West Catholic Athletic League’s Pitcher of the Year as a junior, Schott seemed poised to have a stellar senior season.

“After what he did last year, I think everyone expected him to have a big year,” St. Francis head coach Matt Maguire said. “To go down like that in the second or third inning was a deflating moment for everyone, especially for him, and then the season gets canceled. He wants to be out there more than anybody.”

Big things to come

Schott takes some solace from believing that his pitching career has just begun. He doesn’t just want to make it to the big leagues – he’s shooting to be a star.

“I set my goals high,” Schott said. “I want to be a franchise pitcher and a hall of famer. I want to be the best ballplayer I can be.”

He is confident the Baylor coaching staff can help make that happen, noting the number of Bears selected in the first round of recent Major League Baseball amateur drafts.

“They had a first-rounder this year and two last year,” said Schott, whose dad Tom and great uncle Steve (former owner of the Oakland A’s) both played baseball at Santa Clara University. “They have a good track record of sending guys to the pros.”

Schott has dreamed of playing pro baseball since age 5, he said, when he was starting out in Los Altos & Los Altos Hills Little League and attending San Francisco Giants games with his family. While some of his baseball heroes have retired – including Giants reliever Brian Wilson – he still admires Los Angeles Dodgers ace David Price and a star infielder playing on the southside of Chicago.

“One of my favorite players is Tim Anderson, the shortstop for the White Sox, because he plays with a lot of confidence,” Schott said. “That’s how I like to play – not cocky, but confident – knowing you’re the best player out there.”

Making the switch

Schott started out as a shortstop. He didn’t become a full-time pitcher until after he graduated from eighth grade.

“I’ve been pitching since I was 8, but I wasn’t the best at it,” he said. “I was a way better shortstop and hitter. I just threw harder, but I didn’t know how to pitch. … Then that summer (before high school), a coach told me that I had a really big future in pitching.”

Honing his skills with his club team, Baseball Performance Academy in Southern California, Schott became a starter at St. Francis his sophomore year.

“He’s always had that confidence on the mound that’s he good enough to get anybody out,” Maguire said. “He’s had that since his sophomore year when we won the CCS championship. He’s a smooth pitcher with good mechanics, and that leads to a lot of strikes.”

While Schott said his fastball “can touch the low 90s (mph),” he’s not known as an overpowering pitcher.

“He’s not going to blow anyone away,” Maguire said. “He gets outs because he throws three pitches for strikes.”

Along with his fastball, Schott takes pride in his curveball and changeup. And though it takes a lot of time and effort to master these pitches, he still managed to play another sport in high school. Schott played three seasons of football – the first two as a quarterback – and after taking his junior year off, he started at wide receiver on the varsity team last fall and even filled in at QB for a few games.

“I love football – it’s one of my biggest passions,” the 6-foot-3 Schott said. “I was probably told 100 times not to risk it and just play baseball, but I would have hated myself if I didn’t play.”

Now he’s focused solely on baseball – with goals that may seem lofty but not impossible.

“The sky’s the limit for him,” Maguire said.

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Alum of MV baseball club drafted in first round by Red Sox

By Joe Perrino
Town Crier Editorial Intern

For the first time in its nine-year history, Mountain View’s Brushback Baseball Club has produced a Major League Baseball draft pick.

The Boston Red Sox selected infielder Nick Yorke in the first round of the 2020 MLB amateur draft June 11.

Nick Yorke” width=
Courtesy of Kris Mims
Brushback Baseball Club head coach Kris Mims hands Nick Yorke a jersey on his first day of practice for the 13-and-under team in 2015. The Boston Red Sox selected Yorke in the first round of this year’s MLB amateur draft earlier this month.

“We kind of figured early to mid-rounds,” Brushback head coach Kris Mims said of where he expected Yorke to be selected. “It was a nice surprise to see him drafted 17th overall by the Red Sox.”

A 2020 graduate of Mitty High, Yorke has been touted by MLB and college scouts as “the top pure hitter on the West Coast.” The San Jose native was batting .533 when his senior season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“His swing is one of the smoothest swings I ever saw as a high school player and as a little kid,” said James Hoyt, a 2020 graduate of Mountain View High who played with Yorke on Brushback.

That smooth swing helped Brushback on several occasions during the three years Yorke played for the club (2015-2017).

Mims recalled Yorke’s impact on Brushback’s 13-and-under squad when it traveled to San Diego in the summer of 2015 to compete in the Xtreme Diamond Sports World Series.

Brushback advanced to the Silver Division title game, and Yorke came through in the clutch.

“He hit an opposite-field home run in the championship game to help us win the championship,” said Mims, who is also the head coach at Mountain View High.
Yorke’s success hasn’t come without hard work and perseverance, however.

“When he first joined the program, he was coming off a broken collarbone,” Mims said of the then-12-year-old. “He missed a few months, but he came back ready to work. He was always smiling and enjoying himself.”

More recently, Yorke underwent shoulder surgery to repair damage in his throwing shoulder, keeping him at the designated hitter spot his junior season. Despite the shoulder injury, Mims said Yorke can reach the big leagues by age 22 or 23.

Yorke, who did not respond to the Town Crier’s request for an interview, is a player Mims won’t soon forget.

“Kids like that make it easier for coaches to be able to coach,” he said. “When he had been selected, I received a gaggle of texts from people and coaches who I had coached with, and it was great to see all of his hard work pay off.”

After the draft, Mims celebrated Yorke’s accomplishment by posting congratulatory messages on Brushback’s social media accounts.

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Los Altos High baseball player Leong overcomes concussion

Matt Leong
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High junior Matt Leong stands at the plate against Leland in March.

By Pete Borello
Staff Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

It’s been more than four years since Matt Leong sustained a concussion that has altered his baseball career. A catcher since Little League, the Los Altos High junior last year was advised to switch positions to lower the risk of triggering his post-concussion syndrome.

“From age 10 or before, my passion was catching,” said Leong, injured during a backyard football game. “It was difficult (to give it up), but I was having head problems again and the doctor said the best thing to do was to stop catching.”

Moving from the infield to the outfield this year, Leong was off to a stellar start when the Eagles’ season came to a premature end because of the coronavirus pandemic. After six games, Leong had eight hits – including two doubles – along with six RBIs. His .615 batting average ranked second among the team’s starters.

“I was probably having the best start to a season in my career,” he said.

It was supposed to be Leong’s second season on varsity, but everything changed after that visit to the neurologist last year. Just days after making the team as a catcher, the sophomore broke the news to head coach Gabe Stewart.

“Catcher is the one spot on the baseball field where you don’t want to put a young man in that situation,” said Stewart, who acknowledged that he suffered a few concussions playing sports in his youth. “Even something inadvertent like a foul tip could put his future in jeopardy.”

They agreed that Leong would move down to junior varsity and learn a new position – second base. The transition went so well that Leong earned all-league honors at season’s end.

This year, Leong made another switch.

“The coach said he wanted my bat in the lineup, so I tried left field,” he said.

Stewart wasn’t surprised Leong made what he called a “seamless transition.”

“Matt is one to put in the work and do whatever is necessary to succeed,” Stewart said. “He has extreme mental toughness. There was not one shred of doubt that if the coaches asked him to do something, within reason, he would do it.”

While Leong misses catching – his idol is San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey – he is happy to still be playing what he described as “my favorite sport since I was 5 years old.”
Leong never expected that concussion to impact how he plays the game today. It occurred at a Super Bowl party during a friendly game of football.

“A bigger kid knocked him over – it was just an accident – and he hit his head on the ground,” mom Tracey Leong said.

At first, the seventh-grader thought he was OK.

“I didn’t have experience with head injuries – it was new to me – and I didn’t really feel anything. I thought it was normal, and I went on with my day,” he said. “The next day, I couldn’t think straight.”

A trip to the doctor revealed a concussion.

“I thought I was fine the next week or so, but it dragged on,” he said. “I missed five weeks of school.”

The headaches lessened over time but never went away completely. A year later, Leong contracted a virus that he said caused headaches that were “more painful than my concussion.” Doctors told him that his concussion made those headaches worse. He missed six more weeks of school.

The headaches eased over time, but there were days Leong had to miss Little League games and he stopped playing travel ball.

Now Leong is back playing the game all-out.

“The only thing that scares me is a ball to the head while hitting,” he said. “Otherwise, I still slide, layout for a ball and dive for it. I have no worries about that at all.”

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