By Fred J. Robledo
GLENDORA – In his wildest dreams, Glendora High School pitcher Adam Plutko couldn’t have envisioned a season this perfect, or maybe he did, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows him. “We wanted to be that team with the target from day one,” Plutko said. “Everyone in the Valley knew we would be good, but we weren’t No. 1 in a lot of polls; it was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ “We kind of played with a chip on our shoulder the rest of the way, then when we became No. 1 in a lot of polls, it was like, this is where we want to be, there’s no looking back, lets get this done.” (To continue, and read coach of the year Dan Henley’s story, click thread).
Tribune Baseball All-Area
Coach of the year: Dan Henley, Glendora
Player of the year: Adam Plutko, Glendora, Sr.
Pitcher: Paul Paez, Bishop Amat, Sr.
Pitcher: Kenny Mathews, Diamond Bar, Jr.
Utility: Christian Huerta, Sierra Vista, Sr.
Catcher: Joseph Winterburn, Glendora, Sr.
Infield: Rio Ruiz, Bishop Amat, So,
Infield: Robert Mier, Bonita, Jr.
Infield: Rouric Bridgewater, Diamond Ranch, Jr.
Infield: Eric Lewis, Damien, Sr.
Outfield: Jacob Smigelski, Glendora, Sr.
Outfield: Matt Gelalich, Bonita, Sr.
Outfield: Bobby Oatman, Damien, Sr.
Pitcher: Travis Santiago, Charter Oak, Jr.
Pitcher: Eddie Pedroza, Northview, Sr.
Catcher: Jerry McClanahan, Bishop Amat, Sr.
Utility: Cody Doyle, South Hills, Sr.
Infield: Joseph Woodward, Glendora, Sr.
Infield: Jacob Shirley, South Hills, Sr.
Infield: Evan Highley, Bonita, Sr.
Infield: Christian Ibarra, South Hills, Sr.
Outfield: D.J. Wallace, Charter Oak, Sr.
Outfield: Chester Pak, Diamond Bar, Sr.
Outfield: Jeff Crowe, Diamond Bar, Sr.
The Tartans’ clutch right- hander did his part by pitching a complete-game five hitter in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 championship game against Yucaipa, the Tartans winning 10-3 to earn the first baseball title in the school’s history.
“That game, that moment … that’s what you live for,” Plutko said.
“That’s the main reason I play — to compete. There’s nothing more fun in the world than competing and being on that stage.”
Plutko made his playoff debut in the quarterfinals, returning after being out a month because of a strained back only and throwing a no-hitter in a 2-1 victory over Placentia Valencia.
He did everything asked of him all season, whether it was a crucial 3-0 victory over Diamond Bar in eight innings in which he allowed just two hits to outduel Brahmas lefty Kenny Mathews, or throwing a complete game late in the season in a 5-2 win over Damien that all but secured the Tartans’ Sierra League title.
Plutko finished the season 10-1 with a 1.36 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 67 innings, was named the CIF-SS Division 2 player of the year and was drafted in the sixth round (183rd overall) by the Houston Astros in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft, though the 6-foot-2 180- pounder will likely head to UCLA on a full baseball scholarship.
For his efforts, Plutko has been selected the 2010 Tribune Baseball Player of the Year.
“We had a great pitching staff, but there was an expectation the team had when he was on the mound,” Tartans coach Dan Henley said of Plutko. “They looked to him to be big in those big moments, and he delivered.
“He pitched in every big game we had, pitched through adversity and pitched through injury. You don’t do that without talent and mental toughness, and Adam had both.”
Plutko leads a Tribune first- team list that’s loaded with high-caliber players, including two other solid pitchers in Mathews and Bishop Amat’s Paul Paez.
Paez, headed to the University of San Diego, has been flawless for Amat ever since he set foot on campus. His senior year was no different — he was named the Del Rey League Pitcher of the Year after finishing 13-2 with a 0.92 ERA and 148 strikeouts.
Mathews, a big lefty, is just a junior and the biggest impact player returning next season.
He single-handedly carried the Brahmas most of the season. Not only did Mathews finish 7-3 with a 1.73 ERA and 91 strikeouts, he also played first base and hit .471 with 19 RBIs and three home runs to earn Sierra League co-Most Valuable Player honors — quite a feat considering the Brahmas finished third in league.
The first-team infielders are led by highly regarded Bishop Amat sophomore Rio Ruiz, along with Bonita junior Robert Mier, Diamond Ranch junior Rouric Bridgewater and Damien senior Eric Lewis.
Ruiz, on his way to becoming one of the best athletes in Valley history, batted an astounding .528 with 34 RBIs, four home runs, nine doubles and four triples to earn Del Rey League Player of the Year honors.
Bridgewater put up ridiculous numbers also, batting .580 with 41 RBIs, 10 home runs, 12 doubles and four triples to earn Miramonte League Player of the Year honors.
Mier was the heart and soul of a Bearcats team that won the Miramonte League title and advanced to the Division 3 championship game. Mier, a Miramonte and Division 3 first- team selection, batted .435 with 31 RBIs, seven homers and nine doubles. Lewis, a first-team Tribune selection for the second consecutive year, was a huge part of the Spartans’ success, which led to a Division 2 quarterfinal appearance.
Lewis batted .419 with 22 RBIs and five doubles, quite an accomplishment when one considers the healthy dose of pitching in the Sierra League.
Sierra Vista’s Christian Huerta earned first-team honors as a utility player, a no- brainer considering how much he meant to the Dons during their run to the Montview League title. All the Montview League MVP did was hit .514 with 38 RBIs, eight home runs, 10 doubles and three triples.
He was mostly known, however, for pitching, finishing 10-2 with a 1.18 ERA and 127 strikeouts.
In an area littered with quality catchers, Glendora’s Joseph Winterburn stood above the rest, earning Sierra League co- MVP honors as well as helping the school to its first CIF championship. Known for his quality defense, Winterburn also batted .412 with 24 RBIs and five home runs.
The first-team outfielders are Glendora’s Jacob Smigelski, Bonita’s Matt Gelalich and Damien’s Bobby Oatman.
Smigelski was a clutch player for the champion Tartans, batting .301 with 22 RBIs and five homers to earn Sierra League first-team honors.
Oatman, also a Sierra League first-teamer, batted .429 and scored 23 runs with 14 RBIs.
Gelalich was a big hitter for the Bearcats. The Miramonte League first-teamer batted .494 with 43 runs scored, 20 RBIs, three homers, seven doubles and five triples.
Coach of the year
By Fred J. Robledo
While Glendora High School ended six decades of drought by winning the school’s first CIF-Southern Section Divisional baseball title, beating Yucaipa 10-3 in the Division 2 title game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore, it was a feel-good moment for Tartans coach Dan Henley.
It was no secret the area’s coaching fraternity was pulling for Henley — named the Tribune’s 2010 Coach of the Year after leading the Tartans to a 27-2-1 overall record, which included winning the Glendora and Arcadia tournament titles, the Sierra League championship and advancing to the school’s first CIF baseball title game ever and winning it.
And the Tartans did it the hard way, entering the playoffs as the top seed and with the bull’s-eye firmly implanted — but they never wavered, getting stronger and more resilient each round of the playoffs before stamping the exclamation point in the final.
“I suppose that says a lot about our team,” Henley said. “Polls, rankings and seeds are difficult things for high school kids. They mean a lot symbolically.
“But our team didn’t feed into that. We always felt like we were the underdog, that we had a lot to prove and went out with that mindset. Whenever you do that it brings out the best, and fortunately, we were able to accomplish our goal.”
In fact, some consider Glendora the best team in the entire Southern Section, and Henley, finishing his 11th season in charge at the school, is a big reason for it.
“Glendora had a team with a lot of experience, a team with a lot of guys going to college and with huge expectations, that’s not always easy to coach,” Bonita coach John Knott said. “There is a lot of pressure that comes with that, and add to the fact their (ace) pitcher Adam Plutko was injured near the end of the year and came back, I mean, (Henley) deserves a lot of credit for keeping them loose and focused.”
Longtime Gladstone coach Brett Stevens, an assistant coach at Arcadia High when Henley starred at shortstop for the Apaches in the 1980s, has always been a big supporter of Henley.
“I knew when he played for us what a great leader he was and you were hoping he would go into coaching,” Stevens said. “I remember his early days coaching at Mountain View and how tremendous he was there.
“When he went to Glendora I thought it was a great place for him, though it’s such a tough place to coach because you have demanding parents and demanding kids. But anyone that knows Dan knows he’s a character guy and that he could deal with it, that’s probably why so many of us were happy to see him win a championship. If anyone deserved it, he did.”
Part of the demand of coaching baseball at Glendora reared its ugly head during the Glendora tournament in 2008 when flyers circulated in the Henderson Field parking lot asking for Henley’s removal as head coach.
But for Henley, winning a title wasn’t vindication, it wasn’t answering his critics, it was staying true to who he is and what he represents.
“Redemption isn’t something I think about,” Henley said. “What I’ve always been able to do as a coach and person is stay focused on the moment, learn from yesterday and plan and prepare for today.
“You mention some of that ugly stuff, but you can’t control what other people think and feel. But I’ve got thick skin and could handle it. I think my background and profession sort of prepared me to handle this, and believe me, Glendora’s a great place to be. We have a lot of supporters and the kids are always hard working and fantastic.”
Alhambra baseball coach Steve Gewecke, who was an assistant under Henley when he coached at Mountain View in the 1990s, said there are not many in the coaching circles as well-rounded as Henley.
“In terms of receiving accolades, it’s long overdue for him,” Gewecke said. “When I coached with him he had the knack for working kids’ tails off but at the end of the day everyone was smiling. Those are things I try to carry with me at Alhambra.
“Dan’s someone with a lot of integrity, he’s a real good guy, a straight arrow, he doesn’t bad mouth anyone, that’s not his deal.
“And in terms of coaching, he’s one of the best, he always has been. The competitor that he was in high school is the same competitor you see in coaching. He’s as fierce as they come, and just a real good guy. That’s why so many people were happy to see him win it all.”