By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
TEMPLE CITY – It’s not unusual for Temple City High School baseball coach Barry Bacon to coach siblings. It’s how it inevitably works out in this city, where siblings grow up playing Little League, then Pony and eventually land on Bacon’s baseball program.
“That’s our community,” Bacon said. “You get the older brother, you get the little brother. They grow up watching the older brother and understand what we’re doing here at Temple City.”
What’s unusual is coaching a set of brothers on varsity, much less two.
In his 14 years at the helm, Bacon never had coached two sets of brothers at once. That all changed last year when twins Calvin and Corey Copping joined the varsity pitching staff as sophomores.
Jonah Jarrard, a junior, joined varsity as a catcher his freshman year while his brother Julian, a senior, joined his sophomore year after spending his freshman year pitching on the junior varsity level.
That was by design.
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“We were good on the mound and we didn’t want to rush the twins,” Bacon said. “We wanted to develop them. Jonah was so good we could bring him up earlier, and Julian played on JV his freshman year.”
It’s how Bacon’s worked over the years in choosing to develop his young arms and bringing up freshman only if they’re position players. It’s why Jonah went straight to varsity, as did former standout shortstop Dusty Sanderson (Azusa Pacific) and third baseman Justin Smith. That meant promising pitchers such as former standout Ryan Tucker and the Copping twins were looking at a year of playing the lower levels, no matter their high upside.
“We always hold pitchers back,” Bacon said. “We don’t want to overpitch them. We don’t want them to throw four years of varsity innings.”
Tucker is now pitching for the Texas Rangers.
“We knew Ryan was special,” Bacon said, “and we know the twins are special.”
The Coppings joining varsity gave Temple City (16-7) an unusual lineup, but they’re different in every way.
None of the three pitchers considers himself the ace, but numbers don’t lie. Corey is 4-1 with a 0.45 ERA and 54 strikeouts, Julian is 6-2 with a 2.55 ERA and 44 strikeouts, and Calvin is 5-2 with 2.63 ERA and 39 strikeouts.
Expect Corey to take the mound today at 3:15 p.m. when Rio Hondo League champion Temple City hosts St. Bonaventure in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs and the first postseason home game in four years.
The last time Temple City won a league title was seven years ago, when Jonah and the Coppings were in the fourth grade. The memory of watching the Rams win in dominant fashion isn’t so clear, but Julian does recall getting Tucker’s autograph as a fifth-grader.
The foursome knew each other as 10-year-olds while playing Little League in Temple City – the Jarrards with the Dodgers and the Coppings with the Angels.
It was only a matter of time until the foursome played on the same team at Temple City, Jonah said, and when they did watch out.
“I knew once the four of us were on the same team, there was no way we wouldn’t win the league title,” said Jonah, who’s batting .385 with 18 RBIs, five doubles and a home run.
Having played on the same team for so long, Jonah understands this could be the last time he gets to suit up with his brother.
“I hope it’s not the last time,” Jonah said. “We want to ride it out and make a deep run. I know this could be the last time I get to play with my older brother, and I know how much it’ll mean to my parents.”
Julian said he’s thinking of majoring in kinesiology and playing baseball at Biola or the University of La Verne.
“Our parents will have to go back and forth to watch our games now,” Julian said.
The Coppings get one more year to play on the same team. Corey, who’s two minutes older, said he and Calvin would like to ride baseball as far as it’ll let them.
“Yeah,” Jonah interrupted, “that’s what’s in their future, for sure.”
It’s not that the Coppings don’t feel a strong emotion for the sport. They just have a different way of showing it, which is a stark difference to how the Jarrards play baseball, making the foursome that much more unusual.
The Coppings don’t bluff on the mound, much less in the dugout.
“They’re like poker players,” Bacon said. “They hold their cards very close to the chest. It’s not a bad thing to be expressionless. They get on that mound and they pound.”
The Jarrards are the opposite.
“That’s why we’re so good, because they’re so different,” Bacon said. “What I mean is the twins are quiet and they’re focused. I call Calvin a bulldog because when they play, they play to win and they play the game correctly. You tell them to do something and they’ll do it.
“The Jarrards, they’re more vocal. They make the game fun, they keep us loose. You can see their expression on their face and you know how they’re feeling at that moment.”
Then there’s Jonah, whose character and personality are hard to miss.
“Jonah exhibits the love of baseball,” Bacon said. “He’s a baseball rat. Julian is a constant professional, always working on his craft.”
Brotherly love at its finest.