Re­turn­ing to old stomp­ing grounds

Prep base­ball: In­di­ans to host an­nual al­muni game

The Signal - - Sports - By Diego Mar­quez Sig­nal Staff Writer

Hart base­ball will hold its an­nual alumni game at Hart High on Satur­day, Jan. 27, wel­com­ing for­mer and cur­rent play­ers along with the com­mu­nity.

“Every­body who has played at Hart is in­vited,” said Hart base­ball head coach Jim Ozella. “We are a com­mu­nity-based pro­gram so we don’t have kids from far away com­mu­ni­ties. Hope­fully, we will get a great turnout of for­mer play­ers and for­mer par­ents.”

Each year, Hart se­lects play­ers, par­ents and other peo­ple who have con­trib­uted in some form or an­other to be hon­ored and be in­ducted into the team’s Wall of Fame. This year’s in­ductees in­clude Hart base­ball alum­nus Jen­zen Tor­res along with Ilona and Jeff Valaika, the par­ents of for­mer Hart base­ball play­ers Chris, Matt, Pa­trick and Nick.

“Ilona and Jeff were al­ways highly in­volved in our Dugout Club,” Ozella said. “They were in­volved in var­i­ous du­ties with Jeff serv­ing as the pres­i­dent and Ilona as the trea­surer along with pro­duc­ing four great kids.”

Tor­res, who played catcher for the In­di­ans, re­turns to Hart after play­ing col­le­giate base­ball for Cal Poly Pomona, fin­ish­ing as the pro­gram’s all-time leader in home runs with 34 in 199 games.

Tor­res is cur­rently en­ter­ing his sev­enth year as an as­sis­tant coach for Cal Poly as well as a co-re­cruit­ing co­or­di­na­tor.

“He was an out­stand­ing player for us and is the all-time home run leader at Cal Poly,” Ozella said. “He has worked so hard through­out the years as both a player and a coach and has re­ally made a dif­fer­ence.”

Ozella hopes that younger base­ball play­ers will have the chance to learn from those who

came be­fore them and un­der­stand what the Hart tra­di­tion is all about.

“In re­gards to Hart base­ball, it’s re­ally a pro­gram that has a long-stand­ing tra­di­tion,” he said. “When the younger kids see the older guys mak­ing it and come back, they want to be just like them.

“It’s re­ally an op­por­tu­nity for the older guys to come back and share their knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ences. We are in the peo­ple busi­ness, so for us, it’s about de­vel­op­ing peo­ple, not just ath­letes.”

Fes­tiv­i­ties will be­gin at 11 a.m. with alumni checkin, fol­lowed with the alumni a Wall of Fame in­tro­duc­tions at noon, the 2019 team in­tro­duc­tions at 12:30 p.m. be­fore a three-in­ning game starts at 1 p.m.

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