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.