02 03 SoCal High School Baseball: Sunset vs Trinity League Baseball Challenge 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Sunset vs Trinity League Baseball Challenge


“What a great event!”

This statement must have been made over 1,000 times at the inaugural Sunset  vs Trinity League Baseball Challenge leadoff dinner last night. And every time you heard the statement you just shook your head in agreement.

The event drew coaches from the high school and collegiate ranks. There were also current and former Big Leaguers as well as scouts and player representatives.

The event was a big deal when going in no one knew what to expect. 

Kudos goes to Chris Sorce of Fountain Valley High School - who wore a well deserved ear-to-ear grin all night - for putting the event together.

The dinner featured guest emcee, Ed Arnold, of KCAL News fame and featured three guess speakers. John Altobelli (Orange Coast College), Dan Hubbs (USC), and John Savage (UCLA) took turns talking about their career paths as well as the friendships and family-like bonds they’ve developed over a lifetime of coaching.

“What a great event!”

The Inaugural Diamond Club members were announced and it was a great mix of young, old, and legendary.

Current Kansas City Royals pitcher, David Huff, was one of the honorees and he was clearly nervous about saying a few words.

“I have no problem pitching in front of 55,000 fans,” said Huff who won a World Series title with the Giants in 2014. “But speaking in front of all of you, I’m a nervous wreck.”

Mater Dei's legendary coach, Bob Ickes, was another recipient of Diamond Club honors. Ickes has been at Mater Dei for 41 years as a teacher or coach. In that stretch he has coached over 100 players who’ve played collegiately, close to three-dozen players who’ve been drafted, and five players who have played Major League Baseball.

Ickes related a story about how in the 70’s coaches of all ages would gather and talk nothing but baseball. Ickes insisted that made all of those men better coaches. Now that Ickes is in the later stages of his career he cherishes the responsibility he feels to pass along his knowledge.

Longtime high school and junior college coach, Ron LaRuffa, took time to praise high school coaches for their efforts. LaRuffa also shared a very entertaining story about last years JUCO State Championship that will have to stay in that room. 

Former Fountain Valley pitcher, and current Costa Mesa Police Chief, Rob Sharpnack talked about how the lessons learned on the diamond have made him the man he is today.

The final honor of the night went to former Mater Dei great Cory Hahn. If you don’t know Cory Hahn’s story Google it. If you do, you know what an inspiration this young man is, as evidenced by his two minute standing ovation.

One of the two greatest high school baseball players I’ve ever seen, Hahn spoke about his career at Mater Dei and his experiences at Arizona State. He also proudly spoke of his role with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Hahn talked about the battles his Mater Dei teams had against Sunset League teams; the heartbreak of loss, and the thrill of victory. He reminded us of the caliber of the programs in these two leagues. Programs with deep tradition of great players and great coaches that have played in some of the greatest games.

And that was a perfect reminder about why we were all there. Besides all the festivities last night, there are games to be played. The Sunset and Trinity Leagues are widely viewed as two of the best in Southern California and teams from these leagues will play each other over the course of the next few weeks.

All-in-all the dinner was a great reminder of how lucky we are in Southern California to have such deeply rooted baseball tradition. There have been great coaches and great players come through these parts and that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

"What a great event!"

--Les Lukach
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