Even Arlo Evasick got a little teary eyed.
He didn’t expect that. Not after he won 20 games in his first year coaching the Federal Way High School baseball team, which reached the 4A state tournament. The Eagles won five times as many games as they did when these seniors were freshmen.
“Getting rid of my dog and my roommate passing away in college were probably the last two times I was drawn to tears,” Evasick said. “You build relationships with the kids, you put a lot of time together every week — it’s sad to know some kids won’t play again.
“High school ball is a little different than anything else. You might not ever get to play again, and you won’t do it with the kids you’d done it with for 15 years. That’s special.”
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Don’t think that gets lost on Christian Jones. He understands that not everybody gets to sign a letter of intent with the University of Washington and be considered one of the top high school prospects in the country ahead of the MLB draft in June.
Jones is The News Tribune’s All-Area baseball player of the year. He’s known for his big swing, and he hit six home runs, including a walk-off shot on April 13 against Thomas Jefferson.
The spotlight shone on Jones all season. He’s the one who was selected this week as the Gatorade State Baseball Player of the Year, and was a starter on back-to-back 4A state championship runs with the basketball team, leading his squad in scoring and rebounds in this year’s title game.
But what made the baseball season shine were the rest of the players wearing Federal Way jerseys — even those who just played their last competitive baseball.
“This team wasn’t about me getting the recognition if Christian hits a bomb,” senior second baseman Ben Koler said. “That’s him. He had expectations for himself, and we had expectations for him, too. We kept them high for him because we know where he can play at a high level. And he did.”
“He gets a lot of attention, obviously, but he’s our teammate,” senior center fielder Eddie Peraza said. “We think nothing of it. He’s just our guy. He’s our brother.”
Besides, it wasn’t like Jones was going to score runs by himself.
That is, when he wasn’t hitting balls over the fence. He had a .425 batting average, but a .608 on-base percentage because he walked 27 times in 25 games, including five times in seven at-bats in 4A West Central District tournament games against Gig Harbor and Puyallup.
So Evasick made Jones his No. 2 hitter, which made it crucial that Koler, the leadoff hitter, get on base as often as he did (.610 on-base percentage) and Peraza hit so well behind Jones (35 RBIs).
“At times I would get frustrated, like ‘C’mon, are you serious?’ ” Jones said. “I feel like this year I was pitched around more than any. But I knew it was going to be like that. At the end of the game, it’s a team game. It was an all-round team effort this year.”
So who really stood out most on this team?
Jones said it was senior utility player Dawson Bakker.
Koler said it was junior pitcher Calvin Turchin.
Peraza said it was Koler.
Senior pitcher Kyle Williams, who went from not even on Evasick’s preseason depth chart to the team’s go-to reliever, said it was their team manager, Adrian Lopez.
But there’s certainly something to be said about this first-year coaching staff: Evasick, the 1A state player of the year in 2007 for Chimacum; former Gig Harbor and minor league pitcher Jason Van Skike, and former MLB scout Ron Sherwin.
Evasick and Van Skike would pitch batting practice about twice per week.
Jones sent one of Van Skike’s fastball’s over the 25-foot fence in center field and onto the football field behind it at a practice a few weeks ago.
“He kept getting me out at practice and I was like, ‘I got to get him one time,’ ” Jones said. “I finally got him.”
Evasick said he tries to ramp up his pitches a few miles per hour for Jones.
But catcher Gabe Togia was his kryptonite.
“Togia hit two home runs against me the first time I faced him — changeup low and in and fastball away and out,” Evasick said.
Evasick never allowed a home run in a high school game. So you could say Togia was the first.
Was Evasick OK afterward?
“Naw, it’s good,” Evasick said. “I’ve given up five home runs in a game before — Cal State Northridge, when I was at Seattle U.”
The players said Evasick made the season fun. He told Jones to bring the same passion and energy he seemed to exude on every play for the basketball team onto the baseball field.
“At times, basketball Christian is more intense, loud, obnoxious,” Jones said. “Then baseball Christian is more relaxed, more quiet, just going about my business.
“Arlo talked to me in my first practice for baseball — he wanted me to be the same guy that was on the basketball court as I am on the baseball field. … I felt like my teammates fed off of it. It upped their play, not only because who was there watching our games, but also seeing we hadn’t won a lot of games the past few years. They wanted to go out with a bang and win a state championship. We felt like that was a real possibility.”
Williams said Jones always will be just one of the guys to his teammates.
“I played with him in Little League,” Williams said. “Freshman year he was all over and I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’ve pretty much been playing with him since I was a kid.’
“I can’t wait to say that when he’s going other places in baseball.”
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THE NEWS TRIBUNE’S 2016 ALL-AREA BASEBALL TEAM
Player of the year: Christian Jones, Federal Way, sr.
Coach of the year: Casey Adcox, Sumner
Shane McGuire, Kentwood, jr. — It’s like these McGuire kids were bred to be MVP, state-title contending catchers. First Cash (though he played second base), then Reese, and now it’s Shane’s turn. The 4A SPSL Northeast MVP hit .455, with 29 runs scored.
Ryan Peterson, Puyallup, sr. — There’s a lot to like about Peterson’s sweet swing and his glove at third base. Peterson stepped up into the No. 4 hole in the Vikings’ batting order and hit .415 with 16 RBIs.
Ben Wadowski, Kentwood, sr. — Confident on the mound and at the plate, the Saint Martin’s-bound pitcher seems to step up most when he’s most needed. He struck out 66 in 50 1/3 innings and has 20 RBIs as the Conks’ No. 3 hitter.
Mason DeLaCruz, Thomas Jefferson, jr. — The athletic and durable Washington State commit led the Raiders by hitting .400, with 23 runs scored and a 1.037 OPS. He was first-team all-league QB for the football team.
Matthew Gretler, Bonney Lake, soph. — His brother, Michael Gretler, didn’t have this bat. Leadoff hitter Matthew hit .419, with six homers, and led the team to the 3A SPSL title. But the younger Gretler doesn’t yet have the glove his older brother displays at Oregon State.
Jaden Hassell, Fife, sr. — The UW signee is blazing on the base paths, with 25 stolen bases in 25 attempts for 2A state semifinal-bound Trojans. And the scary part is he’s been on base 69 percent of the time and leads the team with 1.428 OPS.
Troy Johnston, Rogers, sr. — Stats didn’t show it like they had in the past three years, but the Gonzaga signee is one of the best pure hitters in the South Sound. The 4A SPSL South MVP hit .370 and stepped up as one of the Rams’ go-to pitchers.
Tyler Swanson, Decatur, sr. — Swanson struck out only four times in 70 at-bats. He didn’t get the Golden Gators back to the state semifinals, but hit .517 with 10 doubles and 19 runs scored — and saved a few runs with his arm.
Michael Toglia, Gig Harbor, sr. — So pivotal to the Tides with his bat, glove and — this year more than ever — his arm, too, the UCLA-bound center fielder had a 1.00 ERA in 42 innings, and hit .316 with four homers and 21 RBIs for the 4A Narrows champs.
Jordan Jones, Kentwood, sr. — For the state semifinals in Pasco, Jones returns to the site of one of his two losses in a four-year career. This season, the UW signee is 10-0 with 97 Ks in 61 2/3 innings and might be the nicest player in the South Sound.
Tanner Knapp, Fife, sr. — He’s thrown 41 innings so far, and only River Ridge has scored a run on him (when Knapp struck out a season-high 12 batters). The Seattle U signee has a 0.17 ERA, 73 Ks and he has hit two homers and has a team-best 23 RBIs.
Christopher Micheles, Puyallup, sr. — Don’t let the calm demeanor fool you, the UW signee is a big-game pitcher. He gave Puyallup a chance to win every start and struck out 79 batters in 48 innings with a 1.31 ERA.
Zac Horne, Bonney Lake, sr. — How was Horne’s year? He goes from barely cracking the rotation last season to leading the team to the 3A SPSL title and earning the 3A SPSL MVP. Horne went 12-0 with a 0.68 ERA and 82 Ks in 72 innings.
Catcher — Jake Gehri, Sumner, soph.
Corner infield — Robby Pogue, Bonney Lake, jr.; Nathan Harrell, Sumner, sr.
Middle infield — Nick Roberts, Central Kitsap, sr.; Ashton Dulfer, Vashon Island, jr.
Outfield — Aki Buckson, Central Kitsap, sr.; Brennen Postal, Steilacoom, sr.; Ben Wilson, Sumner, jr.
Utility — Henry Cheney, Charles Wright, sr.
Pitchers — Griffin McCormick, Central Kitsap, sr.; Chad Gideon, Emerald Ridge, sr.; Michael Newstrom, Puyallup, jr.; Calvin Turchin, Federal Way, jr.