Jaquez speaks loudly and carries a big bat

BRAD HORN TYson Jaquez

BRAD HORN TYson Jaquez

Tyson Jaquez had one of those seasons last year that most baseball players can only dream about.

As a senior for Loyalton (Calif.) High School, the 5-foot-11, 230-pound slugger won the California Triple Crown, leading the state with 17 home runs, 54 runs batted in and an eye-popping .692 batting average.

The breakout season garnered Jaquez, now a third baseman for the Western Nevada Community College Wildcats, a look from the Major Leagues and he was subsequently drafted by the Detroit Tigers.

"My senior year was great in high school," Jaquez said. "The scouts caught on. It was a draft and follow. The normal procedure is to get drafted late, they watch you play a year, and if you do good they pick you up."

Although his numbers for the Wildcats haven't been as mind-boggling as they were in high school, WNCC head coach D.J. Whittemore said Jaquez has been a big reason why the first-year team has gotten off to a surprising in the competitive Scenic West Athletic Conference.

"He's a good leader because he loves the game and he's talented," Whittemore said of Jaquez, who has a team-leading average of around .300. "He's still looking for his first homer. It's tough hitting in the cleanup spot. They pitch to you differently. You see a lot of breaking balls. They pitch him backwards.

"He turned down Division I schools to play here. He's a very loyal kid. I'm really happy to have him in the program. He's a big-time player."

Whittemore said 65 percent of Jaquez's at bats have come with runners on base. The 18-year-old freshman has knocked in five runs this year, leads the team in slugging percentage and is among the team leaders in runs scored.

Chad Riddle, a freshman right-handed pitcher for the Wildcats, said he's enjoyed playing wit h his new teammate.

"He's a hard worker and one of the biggest competitors on the team," Riddle said. "Whether it's at the cleanup spot or the 3-hole, he battles at the plate. He's a real strong hitter for us."

Jaquez said the competition and pitching in the Scenic West have been challenging.

"It's a lot different (than high school ball). Everything's faster - faster-paced," Jaquez said. "The pitchers are a lot better. It's a huge step up even to juco. I've checked out Feather River (Community College) and their juco players aren't nearly as good as ours. Our league and level of competition is really high for a juco."

The competition is only part of the reason why Jaquez chose to play at WNCC.

"I like it because it's close to home," said Jaquez, who added that Loyalton, which is near Portola, is only about a 45-minute drive away from Carson. "My parents can watch most of my games. Our field (John L. Harvey Field, which is still under construction) is a dream - like the movie 'Field of Dreams.' The coaching staff has great experience. It's great. You couldn't ask for anything better."

In addition to his hitting, Whittemore and Riddle said Jaquez is a defensive asset in the hot corner.

"He has great hands. He has good range at third base," Whittemore said of Jaquez, who has 46 assists (third on the team) and a .935 fielding percentage.

"He's a fun guy to play with," Riddle said. "When I pitch, I especially like him at third. He snags up a lot of balls. He's our second leader behind Miller."

Some coaches like their players to lead by example, but Whittemore seems to prefer the kind you don't need an amplifier to hear.

"Tyson's very vocal," Whittemore said. "He's a natural communicator - especially on the diamond. He's a good teammate because he's a happy person. He's easy to like. And he's always talking. You always know he's around because you hear him."

Jaquez agreed that his ball isn't the only thing that carries.

"I wouldn't be heard a lot if I wasn't so loud," Jaquez said. "My voice carries. I'm very loud and very vocal."

But Jaquez said it's been important that his team's actions this season have far outweighed its words.

"I think we've shown a lot of people (how good the team is)," Jaquez said. "They thought because we're the new kids on the block, that we'd be a doormat - the bottom of the barrel. We've been a contender thus far. CCSN (the Community College of Southern Nevada, the 2003 juco national champions) had beaten some pretty good teams. When we beat them the first time (6-3 on Jan. 27), we surprised a lot of people."

The Wildcats took their second meeting with CCSN, 5-4, in Henderson (Jaquez had two hits and 2 RBIs in that game), before its southern rival swept the next three.

Jaquez said his team has already exceeded the expectations that many people had for the new program.

"People didn't expect us to win 10 games this year," Jaquez said. "We're a force thus far."

Jaquez, whose 22-year-old brother Kyle pitches for Menlo College in San Francisco, has high expectations for his team and himself.

"My goal for this year is to win - first of all as a team," Jaquez said. "Individually, I'd like to be All-Conference and see what happens from there. Maybe sign (in the Majors)."

Jaquez, who one day would like to become a coach, said it's no secret where he'd like to go if he went to the Majors - his room at home is painted orange and black and is adorned with San Francisco Giants paraphernalia - but that anywhere would be fine with him.

Jaquez had a dream season last year. If he can put together another one or two on John L. Harvey Field - nicknamed the "Field of Dreams" - his Major League aspirations would be one step closer to reality.

Note: The Wildcats will play a doubleheader against Salt Lake Community College Friday at Ron McNutt Field at Carson High School and another twin bill with SLCC Saturday at Manogue High School.


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