By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
ALHAMBRA – It’s no coincidence that after joining the Alhambra High School baseball team four years ago Jonathan Beltran’s work ethic, as he put it, “shot up.”
Greg Saldate never was challenged as much as he was over the last three years, and it’s culminated in an outstanding senior season for the Moors’ top two pitchers.
They’ve blossomed over the years and quickly went from primary role players to carrying the team.
Beltran last season was selected co-player of the year in the Almont League and Beltran earned second-team All-CIF honors. This year, they’re a combined 15-2 with 103 strikeouts and have shouldered the responsibility that comes with Alhambra’s rise and fall.
“I tell (Beltran) all the time it’s our team,” Saldate said. “Yes, it is a team sport, but it’s our senior year and we’re numbers one and two, so it’s our responsibility. The team is going to go as far as we carry it.”
Beltran and Saldate hope to bring Alhambra (22-4) some long-overdue credit as the second-seeded Moors begin their quest for a title today at 3:15 p.m. against La Serna in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs at Moor Field.
CLICK ON THREAD TO CONTINUE READING
Before Steve Gewecke’s arrival as head coach more than a decade ago, Alhambra baseball was irrelevant for the most part. Gewecke then transformed the Moors into one of the area’s most dominant and winningest programs. He also earned a reputation for developing top pitching prospects who have gone on to the highest level in college baseball, most recently Cal State Fullerton’s Noe Ramirez, who last season pitched in the College World Series and earned first-team freshman All-American honors by Baseball America.
So when Gewecke speaks, Beltran and Saldate are all ears, and the impact his words have had on them go beyond the diamond.
“My work ethic has shot up since I met him,” said Beltran, who would like to study criminal justice. “He’s taught me a lot of life lessons. I’ve learned so much from him, not just in baseball but life in general. (Gewecke) and (assistant baseball coach Chris) Cosbey have been a huge part of my life since I came to high school.”
You don’t have to see them play or track their attendance records to know if they’re committed student-athletes focused on shedding every ounce of effort in their endeavors. You simply have to listen.
“I feel we needed a coach like him to push us, not just pat us on the back when we do good but challenge us to meet the needs this team needs to succeed,” said Saldate, who hopes be a sportswriter. “He doesn’t let you slack in practice. Even when you feel like you’re doing your best and you’re hustling, if he sees you can do more he’ll push you.
“He’s played pro baseball so he knows what it takes.”
Gewecke’s lessons resonated among many former players who now fill the grandstand to cheer what he’s created.
“The lessons he teaches us on the baseball field transcend to life, and you see a lot of alumni come back and say the exact same thing,” Saldate said. “So you know it’s true and you know what he’s doing – winning six league titles in a row – is working. You can’t go wrong with a coach like that.”
Gewecke was in the St. Louis Cardinals organization with Single-A Springfield (Ill.). He played under veteran coach Dan Radison, but Gewecke learned the most from George Kissell, who is credited for teaching Sparky Anderson and Earl Weaver, among others. Dodgers manager Joe Torre wrote in his autobiography that Kissell was his greatest teacher, and in an article on MLB.com two years ago Torre said, “I learned more baseball from George Kissell than from anyone else in my life.”
One day, while staying in Clinton, Iowa, Gewecke took Kissell’s 10-page black book filled with front-and-back page notes on every position and spent the night writing his own copy. Last year, Gewecke got to typing the book, a source he references to this day.
“He’s big on playing small ball and doing the little things right,” Saldate said.
It’s no wonder Beltran and Saldate enjoy playing for Gewecke.
Their coach learned how to win.