On a sunny March afternoon, the Alhambra High School varsity baseball team holds one of its regular practices. Under the watchful eyes of Steve Gewecke, head coach for 18 years, the players field ground balls and run drills on the perfectly manicured baseball diamond at Moor Field.
“The pace of practice helps prepare them for game situations,” Gewecke says in between drills. "The team has an intense desire to win; they are coachable and are more prepared.”
The team’s desire to win is effective: The Moors have taken first place in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Almont League — a league of six local high schools, including Mark Keppel, San Gabriel, and Montebello — for the last nine years. This season, AHS is so far undefeated in league play and is favored to take the league title the 10th year in a row.
The Moors’ streak began in 2005 with the arm of pitching star Noe Ramirez. The freshman helped propel the Moors to the top of the league and led the team to four consecutive league titles.
The team has continued to hit and field their way to the top spot in the Almont League, but it hasn’t always been easy to stay there. In the last six years, AHS has taken the title by two victories or less. Montebello has consistently remained their top competitor, but this year San Gabriel is their toughest opponent. The Matadors trail the Moors by two games in the league standings.
While this year’s players have less experience than last year’s — only three starting players started on last year’s varsity team — Gewecke says the team is defensively sound and has more hitting power than recent Moors teams, which had to be more aggressive on the bases to score runs. The team also has a solid group of pitchers — All-CIF and two-year league “Pitcher of the Year” Marco Briones, junior James Giambalvo, senior Jose Loera, and junior Christian Maciel — who can pitch “with anyone in the San Gabriel Valley,” Gewecke says.
Briones feels positive about the team’s chances and says the team’s young players are a strength. “We have a lot of young players who are coming up who have a lot of energy that didn’t get the chance to play last year, so they are pretty excited about this season,” he says.
“I think the difference between this year and last year is that we are going to go a lot farther and put up a lot more runs during games,” says catcher, power hitter, and All-League junior Nick Giambalvo. “We have a great infield, a strong outfield, good pitching, and our bats are really on this year too.”
Although the coaches point to Briones and Nick Giambalvo as team leaders, they say the team is close knit and that all the players have worked hard to lead the team to its victories on the field. Chris Cosbey, varsity assistant coach for 10 years, points out players whose efforts stand out, including junior first baseman Andrew Prieto, who has significantly improved his defensive skills, and senior David Saldate, the third of three brothers to play baseball for the Moors. Saldate has played five positions this season to help the team overcome early injuries.
While winning the league title 10 years in a row would be an achievement, Cosbey is equally gratified to see victories off the field. “Ten years of seeing the players come back every year to say hello,” Cosbey says, “that’s when you know you are doing something right. That’s the great thing — seeing them grow into men.”
The Moors' next home league game will be against Montebello at Moor Field on April 25 at 3:15 pm.