By Aram Tolegian
When they were younger, their youth baseball coaches had to alternate their playing time at shortstop in order to accommodate two talents bigger than the diamond they played on. One game it would be Jacob Amaya at shortstop with Jayson Gonzalez at third base. The next game, it would be the other way around.
These days, both Gonzalez who plays at Bishop Amat High School, and Amaya, who plays at South Hills, have their own opportunity to shine and are doing just that. Two shortstops, the same age, from the same city, doing big things on their respective big stages.
To watch them play is to immediately know that even in a Valley that annually produces some of Southern California’s top talent, it’s rare to see two players at such a difficult position be this good. But it’s something that many Valley baseball observers saw coming for years.
“Those days were fun,” Amaya said while reminiscing about playing with Gonzalez as a kid. “I obviously had a clue, playing with him, that we would both be something. It was always a competition between me and him to see who was better.”
Exactly who is better? You’d be splitting hairs to figure that out. Amaya is a slick fielding shortstop who brings plenty of pop to the table with his bat. Gonzalez can also wield a nasty glove and a powerful stick. Both have scouts drooling about their future’s.
But for now, both standouts are concentrating on helping their teams negotiate two respectively difficult schedules and soon the Division 1 playoffs. South Hills has stamped itself as one of the best teams in the country with its 16-3 record against top-shelf competition. Bishop Amat has come on as of late, winning the National Classic last week and holding a 14-5 record.
There’s potential the two both teams could meet in the playoffs, and that’s something both players and lots of fans have in the back of their minds.
“Our team has always wanted to play them,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve thought about it. The team’s thought about it. We just feel like it would be a great game. South Hills has a great team, this year and last year.”
Amaya also has a potential match up with Amat in the back of his mind.
“When I saw that they won the (National) Classic, obviously it showed they’re doing good and we’re doing good,” Amaya said. “Hopefully, we can meet up in the playoffs and have a good competition.”
Both Amaya and Gonzalez have hit three home runs this season. Amaya is batting .375 while Gonzalez is at .333. When asked, both players had a hard time deciphering which part of their game — hitting or defense — is better. They each take immense pride in both.
“The best part of my game I would probably say is my hitting,” Gonzalez said. “I work hard on my hitting. I go to hit with my dad seven days a week. I’m in there an hour and a half to two hours, fixing little things that have been off. I feel like hitting is the biggest part of my game.”
Added Amaya: “My defense is pretty strong. I know how to play shortstop pretty well. I have good footwork, so I can get to my right pretty good. I can get to slow-rollers.”
Covina has produced several of the top players in Valley history and looks like it will do so again. Amaya is a Cal State Fullerton commit while Gonzalez has picked Vanderbilt. Most projections have both players going somewhere in the first few rounds of the upcoming MLB Draft.
Although Amaya and Gonzalez both stressed how important the priority of a college education is to them, both also said they’d be willing to forego those plans to play professionally if the circumstances are right.
Just like the smaller stage of the Charter Oak Stars diamonds, both players have found a way to share the Valley spotlight while also putting on full display the exploits that make the future so bright.
By Aram Tolegian