Sports

LOCAL LEGENDS

THE TRINITY LEAGUE IS A LONGTIME BREEDING GROUND FOR PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES

By Greg Hardesty     7/6/2015

When 22-year-old Austin Hedges cracked a home run on June 16, the round-tripper made small headlines in San Diego, where Hedges recently was called up from the minor leagues as a backup catcher for the Padres.

After all, it was Hedges’ first major league home run––against star Athletics’ pitcher Scott Kazmir, no less.

But in Orange County, Hedges’ two-strike blast brought a huge smile to the face of Donald Evans, assistant athletic director at JSerra Catholic High School, as well as to the faces of other coaches, teachers and students who knew Hedges during his years at the Trinity League school.

Hedges, drafted by the Padres in the second round of the 2011 Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft, is one of several dozen Trinity League alumni who have made careers in professional sports.

Is it accurate to call the Trinity League a breeding ground for future pro athletes?

“I think that’s a fair statement,” Evans says.

JSerra is the newest school in the Trinity League and the class of 2015, the school’s ninth graduating class, had 40 student athletes who will continue playing their sport at the college level.

Most of these 40 students, Evans says, received scholarships and 32 of them are going on to compete at a NCAA Division 1 school.

From the relatively obscure Blaine Nye (Servite, 1964), who played for the Dallas Cowboys, to Matt Barkley (Mater Dei, 2009), who is going into his third year as quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles and who is one of the greatest high school quarterbacks in Orange County history, the Trinity League has produced, over the years, a lengthy roster of athletes who’ve made it to the pros.

Over the summer, Orange County Catholic will take a closer look at some of these athletes.

One former Trinity League superstar recently made headlines not only in the United States, but also throughout the world.

Klay Thompson, one of the backcourt “Splash Brothers,” along with Steph Curry, of the Golden State Warriors, is a world champion NBA player following Golden State’s victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Thompson, 25, is a member of Santa Margarita Catholic High School’s Class of 2008, the year the Eagles won the state championship. He is one of three SMCHS graduates recently in the news for their achievements in sports.

Beau Hossler (2013), an amateur golfer at the University of Texas, was only 17 years old when he qualified for his second consecutive U.S. Open, finishing tied for 29th in the 2012 U.S. Open. This year, at the age of 20, Hossler qualified for the U.S. Open for a third time and tied for 58th place.

And Amy Rodriguez (2005), a Women’s National Soccer team player for FC Kansas City and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist (2008 and 2012), was Gatorade Player of the Year in 2005 for SMCHS. Rodriguez, 28, is a member of the U.S. national team at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which culminated last month in a championship game against China in Ottawa.

Another familiar product of Santa Margarita Catholic High School is Carson Palmer (1998), Heisman Trophy winner for USC in 2002 and a quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.

But SMCHS has produced a wide range of professional talent, from Ryan Martin (2007), who runs for ASICS, to Erika Figge (2003), a member of the U.S. Olympic Water Polo team, to Lauren Oosdyke (2008), a player in the Australia Basketball League.

Not even including baseball and basketball, perennial athletics powerhouse Mater Dei has churned out some big-name professionals in football, most notably Barkley, who holds the Orange County passing record for the most yardage and had an outstanding career at USC.

“Matt possessed outstanding leadership ability, along with tremendous skill,” says Tia Meza, director of Admissions Marketing & Media Relations and head softball coach at Mater Dei. “He was a man of integrity and possessed high Christian moral values.”

Also hailing from Mater Dei is Khaled Holmes (2008), now in his third year with the Indianapolis Colts and the starting center. Holmes was a three-year starter at tackle in the Trinity League and received multiple postseason honors. He is considered one of the greatest linemen in Mater Dei’s history and was an All-America at USC.

Coach Larry Toner of Servite High School in Anaheim coached current NFL players Ryan Kalil (2003, a center with the Carolina Panthers) and Matt Slater (2003, and a Super Bowl champion wide receiver/safety with the New England Patriots).

“When Ryan came to Servite he was very average as far as size and athletic ability,” Toner recalls.

“It was questionable if he could compete at the next level but because he was always very fastidious in his attention to detail and had a real perfectionist mentality, once Ryan picked up size between his junior and senior year it became very noticeable that he had the potential to play collegiate ball (and beyond),” Toner says.

Slater had great skills as a receiver and was exceptional in the open field, Toner says.

“And he always was somebody who looked out for the well-being of the team,” Toner says. “He was very pastoral in that regard.”

Added Toner: “If either one these guys had not been character guys, they never would have made it (to the pros),” Toner added. “They weren’t extra big or fast. Both succeeded because of their character.”

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