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State of Play By Mark Tennis    It’s always a contested argument about which league is the toughest in the state each season in...

State of Play By Mark Tennis

   It’s always a contested argument about which league is the toughest in the state each season in the major sports.

   In recent seasons, for example, the Trinity League in Southern California has been at or near the top of the state in football. And this spring, there have been four teams from one league “” the Tri-River Athletic Conference in Fresno County “” that have been in the State Top 20 in baseball.

   But for all-time greatness in a single sport, it’s just about impossible for any league in California to match the Bay Area’s West Catholic Athletic League in baseball. And since we’ve been part of the process of compiling the FAB 50 national rankings (beginning in 1999), the WCAL really has no peer for baseball in the entire country.

   The league not only has some of the oldest schools in the West “” Bellarmine Prep of San Jose was founded in 1849 and Sacred Heart Cathedral-S.F. was founded in 1852 “” but in baseball over the last 30 years has featured some of the best coaches the state has ever seen. 

   At some point next season, Archbishop Mitty’s Bill Hutton should become the WCAL’s all-time coaching wins leader when he surpasses Chris Bradford of St. Francis-Mountain View. Bradford won 634 games as the Lancers’ head coach from 1974 to 2004. But Hutton and Bradford aren’t the only WCAL coaches with 600 or more wins. Gary Cunningham of Bellarmine Prep-San Jose reached 617 wins when he retired in 2008 and Serra-San Mateo’s Pete Jensen wasn’t far behind when he retired with 564 wins in 2009.

   Want more proof? Here’s a look at what would be our all-time WCAL baseball team based on what each player did during and after high school.

   Catcher ““ Charlie Silvera (St. Ignatius)

   Pitcher ““ Frank Bertaina (Sacred Heart)

   Pitcher ““ Chris Codiroli (Archbishop Mitty)

   First Base ““ Dolph Camilli (Sacred Heart)

   Infield ““ Jim Fregosi (Serra)

   Infield ““ Joe Cronin (Sacred Heart)

   Infield ““ Gregg Jefferies (Serra)

   Outfield ““ Barry Bonds (Serra)

   Outfield ““ Harry Heilmann (Sacred Heart)

   Outfield ““ Pat Burrell (Bellarmine)

   Cronin and Heilmann are in the MLB Hall of Fame, Bonds arguably should be (or arguably should not) while Camilli was an MVP for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Fregosi, Jefferies and Burrell were all multi-year all-stars. 

   That list doesn’t include any of the current ex-WCAL players now starring in college or some others that have been standouts in the major leagues, such as first base Jim Gentile (Sacred Heart), outfielder Eric Byrnes (St. Francis-Mountain View), infielder Daniel Descalso (St. Francis), catcher Joe Kmak (Serra), outfielder Daniel Nava (St. Francis), pitcher Scott Chiamparino (Serra), pitcher Dan Serafini (Serra), infield Ed Giovanola (Bellarmine), outfielder Mike Vail (Archbishop Mitty) and infielder Aaron Bates (Archbishop Mitty).

   Valley Christian-San Jose is a more recent addition to the WCAL but has only added to the difficulty of any baseball team trying to go on a long win streak. The Warriors, for example, went 33-4 and 27-6 under head coach John Diatte when they won back-to-back CIF Central Coast Section titles in 2007 and 2008.

   Sure, there are some years in which there are even some leagues in Northern California baseball that can compare “” especially the East Bay Athletic League of the North Coast Section “” but for top-to-bottom loaded competition and going back 100 years there’s nothing like the WCAL.

   Mark Tennis is the co-founder of Cal-Hi Sports, and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports is the authority in state rankings for football, basketball, baseball and softball, as well as the recognized state record keeper for all high school sports. Contact him at  HYPERLINK “” and follow him on Twitter, @CalHiSports.


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