Cougar baseball players live by the definition of team — a group of people with different skills and tasks who work together toward a common goal with meshing functions and mutual support.
When picking their dream teams fans usually choose Hall of Famers including Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Mike Schmidt, Honus Wagner and Jackie Robinson.
The Cougars have had a dream team of their own this season, with JC Cloney, Roy Verdejo, Dylan Freyre, Jose Haros, and Colton Burns working within the roster.
Reaching their dreams hasn’t always been easy.
After fracturing his spine in his junior year at Valencia High School, second baseman Colton Burns spent a year away from baseball, but didn’t let the injury keep him away from the game.
“Coming back from (the injury) and knowing that I could still play the game, and pushing through that to make sure I know that I can come back from anything,” Burns said, referring to his recovery as one of his biggest accomplishments in baseball.
For others, the success this season was unforeseen. Enter freshman right fielder and Saugus High School alum Roy Verdejo.
“I didn’t expect it,” Verdejo said. “I expected myself to hit maybe like a normal freshman right now, but coming up with seven homeruns was a big surprise for me, even for my family, just because it was my first year.”
While these Cougars may be young, they have excelled in the game so far and have much to be proud of.
Dylan Freyre, another Saugus High alum, was a two-time 1st Team All-League selection when he played for the Centurions, was named to the 2014 All-Western State Conference Team, in addition to being named a Golden Glove winner at third base last year.
As for shortstop Jose Haros, he was the three-time 1st Team All-League selection when he played at San Fernando High School. He was drafted in the 40th round by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013, straight out of high school.
Despite how well their season is going, as a team, they know there is always room for improvement, case-in-point being Burns, who started the season as the number nine hitter and worked his way to the number one slot.
As for Freyre, he continues to make strides toward improving his craft.
“There are a lot of things I can improve on, like the way I field ground balls,” he said. “You can’t really be perfect, but I’d like to think so.”
Focused on speed, Verdejo looks to make corrections on hitting and swinging.
Baseball is more than just a single game for these athletes. For starting pitcher JC Cloney, who was introduced to the game by his older brother at the age of four, baseball defines life.
“It’s like a getaway,” Cloney said. “It’s my own little paradise. You come out here, you don’t really think about life much.”
Clooney uses the sport as his outlet, often channeling daily frustration into drive.
“If you’re having a rough day, you come out here and play some ball and you’re happy by the time you’re leaving the field,” he said. “We’re out here six days a week. If you’re having a bad day, this is where you come to make that day better.”
For Haros, whose first language was Spanish, baseball encouraged him to communicate in English.
“It was important to me to be fluent in English so I can talk with and communicate with my teammates,” Haros said.
No matter how far baseball has brings them, these athletes are still chasing their dreams.
Each player hopes to play through college, preferably for Division I or Division II schools with scholarships.
Don’t be surprised, however, if one day you buy a jersey with their name on it.
“My dream when I was a kid was to make it to Major League Baseball, make it to the major leagues, or right now it’s just go in baseball as high (a placement) as you can,” Verdejo said.
Looking back on their careers thus far, these Cougars have words of encouragement for young aspiring athletes.
“Always work hard rather than take days off,” Cloney said. “My dad used to tell me you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse — you’re never staying the same. So I think everyday you should do something to get better at baseball, no matter what it is.”
Haros’s advice: “Work hard, work hard at your position. Don’t take anything for granted, practice, as well. Focus in school because that’s going to be a part if baseball doesn’t work out, school can be there, as well.”
“Baseball is a game of failure, you just have to keep working at it and, I mean three out of 10 times in baseball is really good so you just have to keep working at it. No matter what, keep chasing it,” Freyre says.
For an update on the baseball team’s standing in conference, watch the Cougar News Sports Update, Wednesday, April 22, at 9:00 p.m., streaming live here on cougarnews.com.