LA JOYA – This time of year always brings out the swan songs, as the last events of the athletic season – and here, one is discounting the competitive summer leagues, as they are truly the kickoff for the campaign to come – are the all-star games.
As has been the custom in recent years, the baseball and softball big shots got together Saturday out west, with a healthy contingent of city kids on each West squad roster. Local hero Lupe Salinas has been helping put this deal on for many years, and his latest effort was a success, with two Edinburg baseballers and four from softball.
Andrew Arteaga had to laugh during the introductions when former North teammate Joel de los Santos was announced as an Edinburg Bobcat. Arteaga, of course, used to play for North, but transferred to EHS for a spectacular senior season in which he hit .469 and led the ‘Cats to the second round of the playoffs.
De los Santos, a smooth outfielder who was a North mainstay for four seasons, took the accident in stride; after all, we’re all All-Stars here, right?
For his part, Arteaga will be extending his baseball career in the fall at Alvin Junior College, and if that town name sounds familiar to diamond veterans, it should. Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan hurled for the local high school before setting off on his strikeout and no-hitter odyssey in the majors.
To cap off his fine career, Arteaga was named a first-team All-Valley pick over the weekend, and is the only city baseball player on the illustrious unit. His coach, Robert Valdez, was on the West staff, and one can imagine the leisurely pace of the week’s activities when it is reported that even the intense and indefatigable Valdez was laughing and joking more than battling the umps or the opponent Saturday.
As for the softball affair, which started an hour later than the baseball gig on an adjacent field at the gorgeous La Joya complex, the toughest part of the caper was trying to avoid the occasional foul ball from the baseball crew; every now and then a “clang!” would sound out as a wayward ball pinged off the roof of the softball pavilion. No girl was clanged, for the record.
The North trio of Claire Garcia, Cynthia Granado, and Victoria Cardenas, always inseparable and usually tough to beat in its long and storied career under Coach Richard Tressler, were all there. Though they had the unusual sensation of not starting the ball game, each got in after a time, to play their last softball of 2011.
Of the three, Garcia is set to compete on the college level, at Howard College out west, while Cardenas is trying to make the squad at San Angelo State. The ever-ebullient Granado will concentrate on academics and the world of Aggieland at Texas A&M, joining another ex-Lady Coog, Jackie Cantu, at that super institution.
Saturday, Garcia became the third North girl to win MVP honors for her all-star side, following Lauren Garza (2006) and Iliana Hinojosa (2010).
And finally, “The Little General,” doing her thing like it was 2008-11. Leeanne Hinojosa will take the field for Mary Hardin-Baylor in her next adventure, but Saturday she was up to her old tricks, singling twice, scoring a bunch of runs, and patrolling right field with the same flair and dedication to detail that made her an All-Valley selection in 2011.
Time flies. When Garcia was asked what in the world North is going to do next year, with the veteran trifecta taking off, she just smiled and offered the sort of terse response one has come to expect from this inveterate battler.
“Just play,” she said, as if that were just the most natural concept in the world.
And, actually, as six of the city’s finest have shown for four years plus a lazy Saturday, it is just that.