Class of 2010
If anyone can lay claim to the title of “King of Antioch High” it would have been Jim Coalter in the 1940s. The Student Body President won eight varsity letters, excelling in nearly every sport in which the Panthers fielded teams. During the 1948-1949 school year, the 5’11” senior was First Team All-Contra Costa County for his performance as a football halfback and fullback. In a nine-game season, #33 scored 59 points; nine touchdowns, threw two touchdown passes and kicked five extra points. Once the gridiron season was done, Jim played basketball as a starting guard for two years, earning recognition as an honorable mention All-County team member in 1949. Without skipping a beat, Jim headed out to the diamond to serve as team captain and starting shortstop for the newly organized baseball team coached by Babe Atkinson, who brought the sport back to AHS as an interscholastic event following a many-year hiatus. The inaugural Panther baseball team had a second place league finish during Jim’s junior season, but he enjoyed the triumph and “great honor” of captaining his teammates to a League championship his senior season, while helping turn 15 double-plays with teammate Bob Ehrlich. That 1949 baseball championship remains a special memory for Jim, even after 60 years. Before the bats and balls could be put away, Jim sprinted off to the track, where he was a relay runner in the 440-yard dash and broad jumper, placing third in the county championship meet. He posted a career best of 20 feet,10 inches in that event. Following graduation, Jim played left field and third base at Modesto Junior College for two seasons, then played basketball for one season at East Contra Costa Junior College (now DVC), before transferring as a starting left fielder at San Jose State College (now called California State University, San Jose) where he played baseball for two years - 1953 and 1954. Once his education was complete, Jim continued as a competitive athlete in the United States Army; he led the Army baseball team to two league championships in Japan. When his service to Uncle Sam was complete, Jim came home to Antioch, where he spent 12 years on the Antioch Recreation Commission and had a three-decade career with DuPont.
Track and Field
This 1959 Antioch High graduate is still in the black and gold record books - his mark for the 220-yard (now 200-meter) dash has not been topped in five decades. Several other individual performances in the 220-yard event qualified him as the Contra Costa Athletic League champion; he won the North Coast Section Meet of Champions with a blisteringly fast 21.5 seconds. It was Mack’s 1959 performance of 21.1 seconds in the straight-away 220-yard race that resulted in first place at the California Aggie Invitational and a ranking of eighth best prep time in the United States that season, as determined by Track and Field News in 1959. That same race has been converted electronically to now include a single turn and is measured as a 200-meter event. Mack was deservedly named to First Team All-League that season. His speedy times earned a berth as only the second Antioch athlete to qualify for the California Interscholastic Federation Track and Field Meet of Champions, following Curtis Casey in 1949. Mack still ranks as the fifth fastest all-time 400-meter racer in Antioch High history. Prior to the senior season’s national recognition, Mack’s accomplishments as a junior and sophomore were also note worthy. As a 10th grader, he set his first AHS record in the 220-yard dash in a time of 22.5. His performance in the 330-yard distance set AHS, Contra Costa County and North Coast Section meet records. His career best performance in that event was 36.1 seconds. Mack set a mark of 10.3 seconds for the 100-yard dash and 22.3 in the 220-yard dash prior to being sidelined by injury at the end of his junior season. As a lightening-fast runner, Mack was ideal as a left half back on offense and defense for the Panther football team, for which he earned two varsity letters. Following AHS, Mack joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany, where he competed on the Army Track and Field Team in 1960. His team won the 7th Army, 3rd Armored Division Championship. Mack won first place in four races; the 100 yard dash in a time of 9.9 seconds, (accomplishing the rare feat of cracking the 10-second barrier), the 100 meters in 11.1 seconds, 200 meters in 21.3 seconds and was a leg of the four-man, 400-meter relay team which ran 40.1 seconds.
Track & Field/Cross Country
She was the first female AHS athlete to ever qualify for the California Interscholastic Federation Track and Field championships, doing so twice, and went to National AAU Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships. Antioch High was a grade 10-12 school at the time Shane attended in the 1970s and she made her mark in track and cross country each year. As a sophomore, she helped set a Panther track record as part of the girls’ mile relay team and ran what was then the second fastest two-mile cross-country time ever by an AHS female of 12 minutes, 27 seconds. In cross-country, Shane improved each season in the DVAL Championships, finishing third place as a sophomore, second place as a junior and finally first in the league in her senior year, winning every dual meet race but one over a two-year stretch between 1977-1978. During the 1978 season, Shane helped her AHS cross country team race to a perfect 8-0 meet record and DVAL title. Along the way she broke her own AHS 2-mile record with a blistering 11:11 second place performance in the NCS-4A regional meet and went on to finish ninth at the North Coast Section Championships and 16th at the Nor Cal Championships. The one-mile and two-mile track records set by Shane in 1978 and 1979 stood untouched for more than 20 years at AHS. As a junior, her 5:12.5 mile was set in the trials of the North Coast Meet of Champions and her two-mile mark of 11:12.1 occurred in the NCS 4A Championship. She went on to place fourth in the North Coast Section Meet of Champions and 15th at the CIF State Track Meet in the 2-mile; as a senior she placed third at North Coast in the same event and 20th at CIF. Her outstanding performances in track and cross country cemented Shane being selected as Most Valuable Senior Female Athlete in 1979. Shane’s honors include: All-East Bay in cross-country and track and All Nor-Cal in cross-country as a senior, three-time AHS MVP for cross country and two-time MVP for track and field. Following her stellar high school running career, Shane competed for California State University, Hayward (now Cal State East Bay). As a freshman she helped the cross-country team win a Division 3 National Championship. In 1984 she was ranked as one of the Top 10 best female track performers at CSUH in the 3000, 5000 and 10,000 meters. She was a two-time qualifier for the NCAA Division II track championships in the 3000 meters in 1983 and 1984.
He had a slight physique, but the dominant presence inside Richardson Gym at Antioch High in the mid-1980s was Fred Hunziker, the first California State Wrestling Champion in Panther history. As a junior, Fred took home a fifth-place medal from the California Interscholastic Federation meet. It all came together during the 5’ 11’, 132-pound senior’s last year at AHS in 1985, when Fred’s 41-1 record earned him the title of Diablo Valley Athletic League Wrestler of the Year, Oakland Tribune Wrestler of the Year, North Coast Champion and AHS Male Athlete of the Year. Fred’s lone defeat was due to a disqualification for an illegal hold during a Woodland Invitational match in which he was leading 12-2. What Fred considers his highest honor, and “the icing on the cake” of his high school career, was being the first Antioch wrestler to be named to the USA High School All-America Team. The national recognition made it all worthwhile, after “all the hard work I put into it - all the missed meals, a lot of missed activities” and forgoing most of his leisure time because “I was devoted to wrestling.” Fred’s amazing three years of triumph were not the first in which he had wrestling success. Between 1976 and 1983, young Fred, who represented the Golden State Wrestling Club, was a four-time national champion in his age group for Greco-Roman wrestling, a five-time national champion in freestyle wrestling and a six-time AAU State Champion. In 1977 and 1981 he was named an All-American in freestyle. To honor Fred, the Club has created a perpetual plaque - The Golden State Wrestling Hunziker Award Team MVP - given annually since 1999. When not wrestling, Fred showed speed and agility as a wide receiver in football, for which he was honored by being selected for the First Team All-DVAL and Second Team All-East Bay in 1984. He also played in the Contra Costa vs. Alameda All-Star game and delighted Panther fans by scoring the winning touchdown against Antioch’s football nemesis - Pittsburg. Following his spectacular senior performances, Fred accepted a full wrestling scholarship to Fresno State University, becoming the first freshman in the college’s history to quality for the NCAA Championships. As a four-year varsity starter in the 142-pound class at the Pac-10 Championships and NCAA, Fred accumulated a 32-7 overall record. He competed in the U.S. Open in wrestling, competing against two-time Olympic gold medalist John Smith and defeated two future Olympians in 1989.
The thousands of Antioch youngsters who have been introduced to “America’s Favorite Pastime” in the last five decades owe thanks to Alvin “Kelly” Martin. Former longtime baseball coach LeRoy Murray said, “when you think of Antioch Little League, you think of Kelly Martin...he (was) the most respected man in the program.” Kelly was one of the original founders of Antioch Little League in 1955, along with his twin brother Elvin. The brothers were born in Texas, but grew up near Stockton, playing all the sports available to them at tiny Linden High School. After serving as a Marine in W.W.II, Kelly began a long career at Dow Chemical, parallel to his equally long volunteer career involved with youth baseball in Antioch. So how does someone named Alvin get the nickname “Kelly?” As he once explained it to a reporter, “It’s a long story that has something to do with being a Chicago Cubs fan and baseball...but with a name like Alvin, Kelly is a big improvement.” A little league field near the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds in Antioch was dedicated to him on April 24, 1976. Kelly’s involvement ranged from getting his hands dirty building and maintaining the city’s baseball fields, to making decisions as a member of the board of directors. In a profile on Kelly, written by Contra Costa Times Sports Editor Charlie Zeno in 1985, the longtime coach was asked what motivated him to spend so many years as a volunteer. “I love young people, and I love baseball. Put them together and that spells the reason why I decided to manage in Little League.” Hundreds of players also benefited from having Kelly as their team coach for three decades. He was an early booster of allowing females to play in the league and coached some of the first 18 girls who joined after 1975, including fellow 2010 Sports Legends Inductee Mia Rexroth. Kelly’s son Vern played on his father’s team, and as an adult, Vern coached an opposing Little League team at the same time as his dad. “My first win (as a coach) I ever got was against my father,” Vern said. “Ours was a friendly kind of rivalry. It was like Little League is supposed to be - fun. He did a whole lot of good for a whole lot of kids in Antioch. If anything needed to be done at the Little League fields, seven days a week, they would call Dad.” Kelly’s career produced five league championships, and one player - Jerry Bertolani - who eventually signed with the Chicago White Sox in the 1980s. It was Kelly’s attention to detail and the fundamentals of the game that made up the life lessons his players learned. In a newspaper interview in the 1980s, Kelly emphasized that building character was more important than winning and “hopefully it made better citizens out of them later in life.” Before his passing in 1995, Kelly was able to enjoy multiple recognitions for his service to Antioch sports. The Knights of Columbus, a later sponsor of his Little League team, honored him in 1985 with a plaque, while the East County Boys and Girls Club and the City of Antioch both recognized him with the Outstanding Youth Volunteer and Distinguished Service Award respectively, as did Congressman George Miller, who presented Kelly with a Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Community Service. One of his greatest honors was being recognized in 1985 by Little League Baseball’s World Headquarters in Williamsport, Penn. for his 30 years of service and bringing organized youth baseball to Antioch. Longtime AHS teacher (and former AUSD board member) Joe Olenchalk summed up the life of his friend and neighbor in a newspaper interview. “Kelly is proof that one man can make a difference.”
Suiting up for the Rose Bowl in 1957 was the culmination of a stellar prep and college football career for this Panther football star. Carl’s Antioch High accomplishments included scoring 13 touchdowns his senior year, part of the 24 he scored as a three-year varsity player during the 1952-1954 seasons. As a senior, Carl was AHS’s MVP and named to the First Team All-Contra Costa squad and Honorable Mention on the All-Metropolitan Team in football. He was also nominated to play in the North-South Shrine Game. His most prestigious recognition was being named to the National High School All-America Team of 1954. In one phenomenal game against Acalanes in his junior year, Carl rushed for 304 yards on 18 carries (averaging 16.89 per carry) in a 33-0 victory which included three spectacular touchdown runs of 46, 63 and 88 yards and a 21-yard touchdown called back. The awestruck crowd gave Carl “a standing ovation from both sides of the field for a magnificent game as he came to the bench,” according to a local newspaper account. Acalanes Coach Ervin Mattson called Carl “the finest back in the league.” During that season, Carl scored nine touchdowns for the Panthers and was selected as the only junior on the First Team All-County football squad. Carl was interviewed by the AHS Prowler student newspaper in 1953 about the football team’s season and said that “his biggest thrill was making a touchdown against Liberty the first time he carried the ball on the varsity team,” a spectacular 65-yard run. Carl also showed his athletic skill in basketball and track. He was “Athlete of the Year” in track as a sophomore. His performance in the 440-yard dash in 1953, an event he had never run in competition before, earned the Contra Costa championship. The big colleges took notice; full football scholarship offers were made by Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA and BYU, but the 5’11”, 189-pounder eventually signed with Oregon State University where he played for two years. During those years the OSU Beavers won the Pacific Coast Conference Championship and went to the 1957 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, losing to the Iowa Hawkeyes 35-19. Carl’s ability was recognized later on by the Antioch Ledger, which polled local football coaches and experts to determine the “Cream of the Crop” among Antioch High football stars who played between 1950-1967. Carl was named to the team as the overall second-highest vote-getter among all the nominees.
The 5’ 9”, 195-pound fullback was top vote-getter in the selection process for the Antioch Ledger’s “Cream of the Crop” 1950-1967 First Team in which Sports Editor Bill Boyer asked 22 prominent local sports experts to select the most outstanding gridiron stars who attended Antioch High from the 1950s through 1967. Once the 1960s were over, Larry was again placed on the First Team of the Ledger’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s as the top fullback. What brought the 1967 AHS grad to prominence was the dedication he had to conditioning and training and his “focus on winning,” according to Coach Bill Snelson. Larry scored 16 touchdowns his senior season and rushed for 1,176 yards, averaging 6.32 yards per carry. He led the 1966-67 squad to a Diablo Valley Athletic League Championship-winning 8-0-1 season, the first Antioch team to win the league title since 1947. In perhaps the most memorable game of the season, a 13-13 tie with the Pittsburg Pirates, the #32 back had 29 carries for 99 yards and one touchdown. A game against Ygnacio Valley was Larry’s best rushing performance; 233 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns. The panther athlete was selected All-DVAL, All-East Bay (chosen unanimously), All-Metropolitan and All-Northern California. The Panther team honored its co-captain as the Most Valuable Player. Larry capped his high school career as the starting fullback in the Contra Costa - Alameda All-Star game, where he scored a touchdown. He was awarded a certificate from the Northern California Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame as a “Scholar-Citizen-Back.” Larry left Antioch in the fall of 1967 for the University of Oregon on a football scholarship. He later transferred to Diablo Valley College where the bruising fullback helped the Vikings to an 8-1 Golden Gate Conference Championship. While at DVC Larry was the leading conference scorer with 15 touchdowns while rushing for 766 yards, including one game against Contra Costa College in which he scored three touchdowns in a 33-0 victory. The Viking Co-Captain was selected as his team’s Outstanding Back and named Most Inspirational. DVC Coach Sam DeVito, in an interview, called Merlini “the best inside threat in his 10 years of coaching.” Larry finished his competitive football career on a scholarship to San Jose State, where he scrambled for a 20-yard touchdown in a game against football powerhouse Stanford.
Antioch High School named Ron as Co-Athlete of the Year and football MVP as a senior in 1963 but his gridiron skills were evident from an early age. As an elementary school quarterback for the John Muir Red Devils, he performed a single game feat of five touchdowns, which included a 70-yard run. Football took a back seat when Ron played Babe Ruth baseball for the Anthony Buick team as a young teen. He was a 10-0 pitcher and led the league in strikeouts with 117. He was also the second best hitter in the Delta Division. Ron’s football career began as an Antioch High Panther in 1961, when he was a two-way starter. The junior earned Contra Costa County Player of the Week honors in a game against Pleasant Hill High. His high school senior year accomplishments include being named a top player in Contra Costa for two different positions; First Team All-County defensive safety and Second-Team All-County as a halfback for which he averaged 5.8 yards per carry. Ron was chosen as “Most Courageous” at AHS by his coaches and teammates. He would repeat that MVP honor earned in high school while at DVC and later on be named Outstanding Back at California State University, Chico. After AHS graduation, Ron became a starting running back and wide receiver on the Diablo Valley College football team, and earned All-Golden Gate Conference status as a college sophomore. He was captain of the Viking baseball team as well. The two-year starter was honored by DVC with the Norseman Award for Athletics, given to the best all-around athlete at the community college. Following DVC, Ron transferred to California State University, Chico, where he would continue to excel on the gridiron. In his first home game against Southern Oregon State, the very first time he touched the football resulted in an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The following game against California Western University (now called Alliant International University) featured his carry of a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown. Being sidelined with knee surgeries for the entire 1966 season at Chico State did not mean defeat for the 1963 Antioch High grad. The 5’ 7” wide receiver - who earned the nickname “The Flea” - came roaring back the next year to become fourth best receiver in the nation with 73 total receptions during his final college year, setting a conference record. The Wildcats gave him the President’s Award for best athlete at the campus for the 1967-68 school year. He capped his football career with a 49-yard touchdown against Humboldt State on the last play of the game and was named to the All-Far Western Conference team. Although he’s being honored for his football accomplishments, Ron was a three-sport athlete at AHS; a three-year baseball starter and a two-year basketball starter: In baseball, he pitched a three-hitter in a 12-0 shutout, struck out nine and blasted a 360-foot grand slam against arch-rival Pittsburg. Ron was AHS’ Baseball Player of the Year and was First Team All-DVAL as a junior and senior baseball player. As a basketball guard he earned East Bay Player of the Week. During his junior year, Ron played a key role in beating the PHS Pirates to end a 17-year losing streak. His extraordinary football skills were recognized several years later by the Antioch Ledger, when local sports experts selected him to be on its prestigious honorary “Cream of the Crop” team composed of the best football players to come out of Antioch between 1950-1967. He was one of only two players to be chosen first team for both offense and defense teams. Ron contributed six years to coaching in Antioch schools, including head football coach at what was then Park Junior High, leading the boys to a 8-0-1 season, and spending a year as head junior varsity coach at Antioch High, ending with a 7-2-1 season. He was assistant coach at AHS under Marv Comstock for two football seasons in 1973 and 1974, in which the team won the DVAL championship.
If anyone asks Bill Snelson about his own experiences as an athlete, the likely response would be, “Oh...I boxed a little.” What the modest former Panther coach doesn’t reveal is that he was second in NCAA Championship boxing while attending California State University, Sacramento, and was inducted into the CSUS Hall of Fame in 2002. Although he did not continue in boxing, he did instruct hundreds of Antioch athletes as a four-sport coach for the Panthers; football, basketball, baseball and diving. His teams won multiple championships and dozens of his players earned positions on All-League teams. Bill graduated from Corning High School in 1948 and spent four years in the Air Force before finishing his college education at Shasta College and CSUS. Bill played tight end and defensive end on the football teams. He also played halfback and quarterback on the Alaskan Armed Forces Championship Team in 1953. His first job after graduation was as a physical education teacher and football coach at Antioch Junior High School in 1958. He led the Wildcat freshman football and track and field teams to two undefeated seasons in 1958 through 1960. He transferred in 1960 to Antioch High School where he was an assistant coach. He was head junior varsity football coach between 1961-1964, earning two league championships in 1961 and 1962, a second place in 1963 and a third place in the league in 1964. Named as Head Varsity Football Coach in 1965, Bill led the team to a Diablo Valley Athletic League championship the following year . By the end of the decade, Bill’s mentoring had produced 25 players named as All-DVAL; 15 on First Team and 10 on Second Team. Coaching the 1966 DVAL champs led to Bill being named co-head coach in the Contra Costa - Alameda All Star Football Game in 1967 which featured three of Bill’s Panther players; Larry Merlini, Steve Sanchez and Louis Strusis. Ironically, the opposing Alameda County coach was none other than former AHS gridiron star Grover Garvin, a Sport Legends inductee in 2009. Bill says that a highlight of the 1960s was coaching the thrilling win over Pittsburg in the Big-Little Game in 1969 - the first win for Antioch since 1947. As Varsity Head Baseball Coach, Bill also saw success on the diamond; between 1966-1975 he coached three league championships: 1969, 1970 and 1974, two second-place finishes and five third place finishes. Three of his players were league batting champions; Dan Bell (1968), Bob Vera (1969) and Mike Lucido (1971). He coached diving for one year in 1965 in which his top diver Gary Martinez went on to place third overall in the DVAL and 8th in the North Coast Sectional Championship. For two seasons, Bill was assistant football coach for Diablo Valley College, working with quarterbacks and receivers; Steve Leroy, Gary Sheide, Jim Magana and Jared Butler were among his charges. Bill’s expertise wasn’t reserved for AHS students. He coached two teams in the Joe DiMaggio Baseball League, an off-season high school summer league he helped found. His teams had a .750 record during two years he coached in 1968-1969. He continued on as their manager until 1975. He was head coach for an Antioch Babe Ruth League team in 1978 and 1979. What’s most memorable for Bill during his decades as an Antioch coach was the “extreme dedication” which Panther athletes had. It is what kept him from continuing on to other coaching jobs. “I started at junior high, then high school, then DVC and I had visions of being the head coach of the ‘49ers -I really did - but the kids are the ones who just kept me here.”
The 1984 Antioch High graduate earned a long list of honors and achievements during his three years as a varsity tight end and linebacker. The 6’ 4”, 245-pound tight end helped the Panthers win the DVAL Co-Championship in 1983. He was later chosen for the Parade Magazine All-America High School Football Team and for the National High School All-America team by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. He was also named a Blue Chip All-American Top 20 player. Eric’s accomplishments on the field were equaled by his abilities in the classroom, as evidenced by being nominated to be on the American Academy of Achievement’s High School Academic All-America Team. His alma-mater’s accolade was being named Athlete-Scholar of the Year at AHS in 1984, (as well as being overall Outstanding Student Athlete). Antioch High coaches awarded Eric the inaugural “Sal Siino Team Award.” The Contra Costa Times chose him as the top pick of its “Cream of the Crop” team of players recruited by colleges. He is the all-time statistical leader at AHS as a tight end with 50 career receptions for 711 yards. Stanford University awarded Eric a full football scholarship, where he was a co-starter his freshman season, and a full starter as tight end for his remaining three years, graduating in 1988. As a Stanford senior, Eric made the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll and was honorable mention on the All-Pac 10 team. Eric’s play earned a starter position in the Gator Bowl against Clemson in 1986 and in 1988 for the East-West Shrine Game. The Stanford tight end played in the 1988 Hula Bowl All-Star game in Hawaii. Eric stayed in California to begin his National Football League professional career with the L.A. Raiders, where he played middle linebacker and was a standout special teams player. He started in the first three preseason games in 1988, but completed the season on injured reserves. He was moved to the Raider practice squad, then reactivated for the 1989 preseason before being released following the preseason games. Eric’s professional football career continued with the World Football League, where he started for one season with the San Antonio Riders as a defensive end, then played one season with the WFL’s Ohio Glory as a starting inside linebacker in 1992. Eric is now a defensive coordinator and linebacker coach for the Black Hills High School football team in Tumwater, Washington, and teaches high school math.
Jeff played 13 professional seasons in baseball, including appearing in 113 major league games in three seasons for the Chicago Cubs between 1988 and 1990. But, the black and gold baseball diamond was where the Antioch High graduate polished his game: he was named an All-DVAL pitcher his senior year, East Bay Player of the Year, All Northern California and honored by AHS as its Most Valuable Player in 1984. He was also MVP at AHS as a junior in 1983. Jeff’s Panther baseball team had a 23-5 season in 1984, culminating with the North Coast Section Championship, played in the Oakland Coliseum. The pitcher shared mound duties with Alex Sanchez, who also became a major league pitcher and is a fellow 2010 Sports Legends inductee. Jeff’s total record for the 1984 season was 10-1 overall, 6-0 in league, with a 1.03 ERA. At the plate, he hit .444 with three HRs and drove in 39 RBIs. Jeff is one of only four players in Antioch High history to have his baseball jersey - #22 - retired. Prior to high school, Jeff played on a Babe Ruth team sponsored by Local 850 of the Pulp and Paper Workers Union. He pitched the final victory game of the Nor-Cal Championships, and then pitched in the Western Regionals in Hawaii. The 6’ 1”, 190-pound right hander was drafted straight out of high school by the Chicago Cubs as a 13th round pick in 1984. “I graduated from high school, then left two days later,” for his minor league assignment, Jeff said. In his major league debut for the Cubs, on May 31, 1988, Jeff pitched a four-hit shutout over the Cincinnati Reds in a 4-0 win, the first time a rookie player had pitched a shutout in his first game since 1934. While in the minors for the Cubs, Jeff had 48 wins and an overall ERA of 3.33, accumulated from pitching nearly 800 innings. His statistics for his major league appearances were; 13 wins, 12 losses, 295 innings pitched and a lifetime ERA of 4.24. After his professional playing days, Jeff worked as a pitching coach for several Class “A” minor league teams; the Yakima Bears, the South Bend Silver Hawks, Lancaster Jet Hawks, the Visalia Oaks and the Double A Mobile BayBears, as well as the independent Western Baseball League’s Chico Heat. Jeff currently works as the roving pitching coordinator for the Arizona Diamondbacks for whom he’s worked since 2003. In this job, he travels the country to supervise all the Diamondbacks’ six farm-team pitching coaches and minor league pitchers. Baseball has been Jeff’s entire life, since he’s spent the last three decades as a player or coach, but he has special memories of his time as part of the 1984 Panther championship team. “I just knew we were good. We had a lot of good athletes and we played well together,” Jeff says. “We found a way to win no matter what we did.”
A child’s tiny, shamrock-green windbreaker, emblazoned with “Rockets” across the back could have belonged to any Little Leaguer. The well-worn jacket was stuffed in the bottom of a cardboard box of childhood mementos loaned to the Antioch Sports Legends hall. What makes this jacket so special in Antioch sports history was that it was worn by Mia Rexroth. She was only the second female to break the gender barrier in boys’ Little League baseball in the 1970s, and continued on to become the powerhouse softball pitcher who led Antioch High to a North Coast Section victory and her college team to a national championship. Antioch High’s 1988 Female Athlete of the Year was an athletic dynamo; varsity softball MVP (and All-DVAL First Team), varsity soccer MVP and a varsity basketball player. As a junior, Mia also made First Team All-League and was Co-MVP at Antioch High, as well as All-East Bay, Oakland Tribune Athlete of the Year in Softball and was awarded Concord’s Big C Athletic Club’s certificate for Outstanding Accomplishments in Softball in 1987. In addition to these, she received a “Certificate of Champions’ from Big League Softball, a division of the Little League Baseball organization in Pennsylvania in 1987. The City of Antioch presented her with a Distinguished Service Award as Outstanding Player of the Contra Costa All-Stars Big League Softball World Series Team in 1986. The three-year softball starter played on the DVAL Championship team in 1986 that defeated Pittsburg 2-1 for the league title in a close game in which she drove in both runs and threw out the tying run at home plate. That same team went on to become North Coast Section Champions of the California Interscholastic Federation in 1986 with the sophomore’s solo home run in the 9th inning of the final game. She was named to the All-CIF Team in 1986 and 1987. Following high school, Mia played for softball powerhouse California State University, Fresno, and as a freshman played on a USA softball team that traveled to China, Japan and Hong Kong. She played outfield three years for the Bulldogs, the 1989 and 1990 National Collegiate Women’s Softball Division 1 second place team, and appeared in the NCAA Women’s College World Series in 1989 and 1990. She earned recognition in 1991 from the NCAA Big West Conference as a Scholar-Athlete. Mia then transferred for her senior year to University of California, Davis, where she played shortstop for one season, earning MVP honors in 1992. Following graduation, Mia coached for four years at Davis High School, earning Coach of the Year recognition twice and tried out for the U.S. Olympic softball team in 1996. Mia didn’t really realize how much of a barrier breaker she was for women in sports. When playing in the all-male Little League as a little girl, “I didn’t really realize there was a difference,” between herself and her teammates, “until I played Babe Ruth when I was 13. I pitched and struck out one of my friends and made him cry. I also made the All-Stars and they said I couldn’t play unless I wore a ‘cup.’ That was when I started playing softball instead,” Mia recalls. Baseball’s loss was softball’s gain. She credits her Rockets coach for allowing her to break the gender barrier. “I was very fortunate that Kelly Martin was able to see me as an athlete and not just a girl.”
The Panther pitcher set six all-time baseball records at UCLA, but he developed his athletic gifts in Antioch Little League and later on at Antioch High, where he spent three consecutive years as a First Team All-Diablo Valley Athletic League selection and two years as All-East Bay and All-Northern California. His graduation from Antioch High in 1984 capped a phenomenal year of prep athletic achievements, rewarded with being named Athlete of the Year at AHS for his performances in two sports. He pitched for the Panthers in their North Coast 3-A victory in baseball against Hayward in the Oakland Coliseum. During that 23-5 season, Alex’s record was 10-2, with a 1.54 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched. In the batter’s box, Alex hit .351 with five homers and 27 RBIs, as well as having the game-winning hit in the DVAL championship game. Alex pitched a win for Nor Cal in the North-South All Star gamed played in Riverside, then joined the best players from both squads as a combined All-Star Team from California which played the Oklahoma state high school all-stars in a three game series in Fresno. Alex capped his prep career by traveling to Japan to play in a seven game “goodwill” series, representing the USA, that was played in Japan’s major league stadiums. AHS later gave him the highest honor it could bestow by retiring his #23 baseball jersey. He is one of only four players in school history to have this recognition. The 6’ 2”, 185-pounder was First Team All-DVAL and 1984’s League Player of the Year in basketball as well as the DVAL’s top scorer, with two exceptional performances of 32 and 34 points respectively in games against Pittsburg High. Although being inducted into the Sports Legends Hall as a baseball player, Alex says the biggest moment of his prep career was “when they named me MVP of basketball and we beat Pitt three times in a row. People were coming up to me three and four years later saying how proud they were.” Alex was drafted by the Chicago Cubs straight out of high school in the 20th round in 1984 and named by USA Today Newspaper as one of the top 25 draft choices. Instead, he chose to attend UCLA on a full baseball scholarship. In Alex’s freshman year with the Bruins, he pitched the very first game of the season on varsity, leaving upperclassmen teammates in awe of his advanced skills. Alex still holds six first place UCLA pitching records (unbroken as of 2010), set between 1985-1987 that include; most wins in a season (16) and most single season starts (23). He is fourth on the UCLA list for most strikeouts in a single season (142), set in 1986. He ranks 4th on the UCLA all-time list for innings pitched in a season (139.1). His first place position in career records for UCLA that still stand: total wins (27), career games started (58), career innings pitched (341) and all-time career strikeouts (328). During his UCLA sophomore year, Alex pitched a 16-3 season, including an 8-1 Pac-10 mark, and shared the title of Co-Player of the Year in the Pac-10 League in 1986, the first sophomore to ever receive the honor. He was also named a First Team All-America selection by Baseball America. “That’s when things started to go crazy. The phone was ringing off the hook,” Alex recalls. Before he could finish at UCLA, the hard-throwing right-hander was drafted again in 1987, the #17 overall pick in the first round and the #1 pick of the Toronto Blue Jays. In 1988 he had a 12-5 season with the minor league farm team in Knoxville, pitching 149.1 innings. The right hander struck out 116 and had an ERA of 2.53. He was a Southern League All-Star game starter. The promising pitcher made his major league debut starting against the Minnesota Twins on May 23, 1989 for which he allowed one run in six innings. He was brought up from the minors ahead of other players who became better known, such as Curt Shilling and Steve Avery. Alex spent most of 1989 with the Syracuse farm team where he tied the league leader in most victories (13-7) and had an ERA of 3.13. He had 141 strikeouts during 169.2 innings pitched and was named the International League’s Pitcher of the Year. His nine-year pro career included stints with Kansas City, Seattle, San Diego and Oakland’s franchises where he accumulated 59 career minor league wins. Alex credits Butch Rounsaville, a 2007 Antioch Sports Legends inductee, with being a mentor throughout his baseball career. “The work he did with us in high school really made a difference. He was my personal pitching coach since I was 11.”
He was selected by the Golf Coaches Association of America two times as a First Team All-America player at the University of Arizona, in 1987 and 1988, the first time any athlete from Antioch has become an All-American twice. Baseball earned him early glory representing Antioch as a catcher on the Babe Ruth State Championship team in 1981. His teammates, Jeff Pico and Alex Sanchez, went on to professional major league baseball careers, but Larry followed a different path - down the fairway instead of behind the plate - becoming the most successful professional golfer to come out of Antioch. Larry played high school JV baseball but focused on varsity golf at Antioch High as a senior. During that 1983 season, Larry’s accomplishments included shooting a 3-under par 70 to lead his Panther teammates, coached by Joe Gambetta, to a 7-stroke victory in the Diablo Valley Athletic League Invitational. He was also the top medalist in the Foothill Athletic League Tournament. In 1984, Larry began play at San Jose State on a golf scholarship, where he won the PCAA conference championship in his freshman year. He then transferred to the University of Arizona in 1985 where he won five individual golf title matches during the remainder of his college career. In 1988 he won the Pac-10 Conference title and was voted Pac-10 Player of the Year representing the Wildcats with a stroke average of 71.60. Larry was inducted into the University of Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 1993. He made his Professional Golfers Association debut on Jan. 22, 1989 at the Phoenix Open. His pro career included qualifying for 157 PGA tour events; placing in the top 25 sixteen times and in the top 10 four times. The year 1991 brought his first PGA victory, shooting 14 under par with a sizzling 63 on the final day to win the Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic, collecting the biggest payday of his career - $54,000 - and the realization of a career goal. In an interview following his tournament win, Larry said “I’ve been dreaming of that 8 to 10-foot winning putt since I’ve been on the tour.” He achieved it by sinking an 8-foot birdie on the first hole of a three-way playoff to clinch his first PGA victory. Larry remains involved in professional golf as a player support representative for Scotty Cameron Putters, traveling to PGA tournaments throughout the United States, and is married to a former University of Arizona women’s team golfer. Although he made Arizona his home after college, Larry has a special love for his hometown. “I would also just like to say a special thanks to the Antioch community for their fantastic athletic programs, without which I may never have traveled down the path that I did.”
Steve Sanchez, an inductee into the Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame for his own wrestling career, coached the Antioch High School Panthers to a California Interscholastic Federation championship in 1988, the only wrestling team in AHS history to be state champions. The Panther grapplers were undefeated in every dual meet for the entire 1988 season, placing First in the Overfelt, Clovis Invitational, Sierra Nevada and San Martin Green and Gold Classic Tournaments. The DVAL and North Coast Section Champions were ranked as the best high school wrestling team in California by California Wrestler magazine and considered one of the top 10 prep teams in the United States. What made this team so successful? Being willing to devote many hours to practice and conditioning, according to Sanchez, as well as “the big commitment by their families.” Many of the team members began wrestling as young boys with the Golden State Wrestling Club, Sanchez said. Within the team there were seven individual league champions and 11 who qualified for the NCS tournament. Emerging as North Coast first place winners were Anthony Camacho (138 pounds), Jason Verduzco (165 pounds) and Sean Ponce (heavyweight). Also advancing out of NCS was William Pillon (98 pounds) in second place, Pat Sweeney (132 pounds) in second place and Casey Rhyan (145 pounds) in third place. Verduzco went on to become the overall California State Champion in the 165-pound class, while Sweeney and Rhyan placed third statewide, with Pillon coming in 5th in the 98-pound class. Verduzco was named to the High School All-America Dream Team by Wrestling USA Magazine, and later attended the the University of Illinois on a football scholarship. Camacho was a High School All-America Honorable Mention. He continued to wrestle on an athletic scholarship to California State University, Fresno. As a Bulldog, he qualified for the NCAA championships in 1991. Ponce (who had won a nationwide first place two years earlier in the USA Cadet Freestyle Championships) continued his athletic career at Brigham Young University as a football player and as a wrestler. Individual members of the 1988 team were: Benjamin Anteczak, Randy Byrd, Ron Bidgood, Anthony Camacho, Jeff Cooley, Bill Costa, David Del Chiaro, David Garibay, Mike Gonzales, Jay Hernandez, Eric Lynch, Joe McNamara, Charles Modlin, William Pillon, Gary Pitkin, Sean Ponce, Casey Rhyan, Steve Sauter, Tate Miller, John Soto, Pat Sweeney, Robert Thurgood, Steve Thurgood, Jason Verduzco, Vince Walker and Chris Wilson. Assistant coaches were Frank Orlando and Louie Fraire.