A community based club baseball all star team. In the travel ball era, that sounds like a misnomer because travel teams draw players from a wide area. But the 9U Toros of Morgan Hill are unique because their roster is filled entirely of local kids.
They recently won the silver bracket of the National Championship Sports (NCS) Summer Games in Pismo Beach and before that placed second in the NCS Father’s Day Bash in Fremont. Most of the kids are the same ones who played on the Morgan Hill Pony Baseball Shetland 6U All Star team that advanced to the NorCal World Series in Seaside in 2019.
“The kids played as a team and performed,” coach Brandon Collins said. “They’ve come a long way and we’re very proud of them.”
The Toros roster—all of whom play in Morgan Hill Pony—includes Ryan Collins, Jayce Mendosa, Brock Fannin, Nico Sanchez, R.J. Stenn, Mario Razo, Maddux Ahern, Nolan Filice, Peyton Lorig, Nick Gonzalez, Hudson Henley, Grayson Vallez, Robbie Coley and Easton Gonzales. The coaching staff includes Brandon Collins, Brad Fannin, Mario Razo and Matt Ahern.
Collins said Liza Leyva—who is on the Morgan Hill Pony Board staff—was instrumental in helping launch the Toros and making sure they had everything organized to play in tournaments.
“Liza was pretty much the glue to this team,” Collins said. “She was in constant contact with parents, getting our uniforms together and being on top of things. She along with the support of the parents, they all made sure the kids got to practice, the hotel rentals were taken care of, all the many things that go into having a traveling team. We established a bond within the team, and Liza was at the center of it.”
The Toros just aged up to the 9U division and aren’t done yet, with a scheduled tournament in Fremont on Aug. 21-22. Collins said the team will most likely play in four to five additional tournaments through the end of November. In Pismo Beach, they were placed with the upper elite teams on day one and lost both, though Collins said they held their own.
On the second day of competition, the Toros went 2-0, beating Paso Robles 9-5 and Arroyo Grande 10-2 in the championship game. Collins said Coley, Ahern and Sanchez led the way on the mound, while Fannin, Lorig, Filice and Coley set the pace offensively.
Defensive standouts included Mendosa at shortstop, Stenn at catcher and Collins at first base. Brandon Collins has some core sticking points when it comes to coaching this age group.
“I try to do the basic things,” he said. “One is having fun. Two, make the easy plays, make contact and throw strikes. It doesn’t get more advanced than that for kids this young.”
Collins decided to launch the team after the kids had little avenue to play this summer since the local Pony All Star season was canceled. He started to gather the players together for practice months ago before it evolved into a travel team.
“I wanted to make sure these kids who have above average level skills had an opportunity to play somewhere,” he said. “You want to take them as far as they want to go.”
Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]