After all these years of scribbling for The Coast News, this column comes with an invitation: Save Dec. 6 and more on that later.
Firstly, the paper, and this writer, appreciates the readers’ interest that keeps this community media outlet thriving. The Coast News has a solid reputation for covering what’s important, and interesting, in this little slice of nirvana which answers to “North County.”
The question isn’t about what to cover but what to leave out. There’s few places with more people with more good tales than your neighbors.
In between filing stories for The Coast News, I’ve written my third sports book. Unlike the other two which spun NFL yarns — think Chargers and Rams — this effort is about baseball.
It’s not about the local nine, and we can’t wait either to see what the Padres’ A.J. Preller cooks up in the hot stove league. Is this the offseason the general manager parts with a one-time big piece of the Padres puzzle in Wil Myers?
Or might Preller peddle some of pieces from a farm system which is rated among the best in the big leagues. Maybe prospects for stars, for a guy who lives near Encinitas’ Moonlight Beach, is what Preller delivers as the Padres rebuilding effort marches on.
Instead this book is about a player that marches to a different drummer: Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani and that’s where the invite comes in.
“Shohei Ohtani The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar” is being launched at the legendary Warwick’s bookstore in La Jolla on Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m. We’ll be signing books and chattering about the uniqueness of Ohtani, who was recently named the American League’s top rookie for his batting and pitching.
Ohtani, 24, is called the “Japanese Babe Ruth” and for good reason. He matched, and eclipsed, major-league records this season that were established nearly a century ago by the iconic Ruth.
Ohtani has shattered barriers on what baseball players can do and just maybe an area teenager is following suit. Spencer Jones, a versatile standout at La Costa Canyon High, is a miniature version of Ohtani. Although with Jones standing 6-foot-7 — three inches taller than Ohtani — that’s difficult to say about the left-handed pitcher and slugging first baseman.
This summer Jones was selected the MLB/SiriusXM Radio Two-Way High School Player of the Year. He starts his senior season at LCC in February, then it’s on to Vanderbilt University or pro ball as a likely first-round pick.
When scouts come around for their due diligence on Spencer, Jones’ father, Chris, said Ohtani’s performance has altered the conversation.
“They mention how the game is changing,” Chris Jones says in the new Ohtani book. “They see (Spencer) as a legitimate two-way player. I’m sensing a trend to it becoming more acceptable.”
Spencer is honing his skills with North County’s fingerprints evident on his game.
Poway’s Dom Johnson works on his pitching while Vista’s Joe Pimentel tones the hitting. Rob Yang, of Encinitas, is in charge of fitness and strength. They complement LCC coach Justin Machado, of Cardiff, in helping Spencer make strides as a player.
“Many only see him as a 6-7 pitcher and he continues to develop; he has the ability to be one of the best,” Machado said. “But his understanding of the strike zone and ability to drive the ball to any part of the field makes him one of the best hitters in the state. And with his speed, he’s kind of similar to some dude up the road.”
That would be Ohtani, but we’re not sure how dude translates into Japanese. We do hope to say “konnichiwa” to you at Warwick’s, which is a Japanese greeting that welcomes an old friend.
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @jparis_sports