As much as he’d love to relive the past, Chase Strumpf is well versed for the next chapter in his life.
Strumpf spent the last four years as the starting shortstop for the JSerra High School baseball team. During that time, the Lions rose from being a sub-.500 program to one of the best in the nation. Strumpf started approximately 130 spring season varsity games for JSerra over the years and sweated through five times as many practices, but says the experience whizzed by “in the blink of an eye.”
“I wish I could get it back,” he says. “Another four years, that’d be fun.”
UCLA has been waiting a long time for Strumpf to step on campus, however. He verbally committed to the Bruins as a 15-year-old–even before playing his first high school game–and officially honored that commitment last fall when he signed the school’s letter-of-intent.
Strumpf says he’ll miss all the camaraderie he built during his time at JSerra, particularly with coach Brett Kay, whom he first met at baseball camp as a seventh grader.
“I’ve always loved him as a coach, and playing at JSerra with all the guys I’ve built relationships with.” Strumpf says. “It just went by like that [snaps his fingers].”
Strumpf wasn’t just highly touted when he arrived at JSerra, he was ranked as the nation’s third-best player in the Class of 2016 by Perfect Game and Baseball America. He played for the 15-and-under U.S. national team at the Pan-American Games in Columbia the summer before his freshman year, and helped his team win gold by slugging five home runs in eight games. He was also named tournament MVP.
“It felt good, but then a month later, you’ve got to forget about it,” Strumpf says of the MVP honors. “You can’t hold your head high, you’ve got to stay humble. This game will get you if you’re not humble.”
Because of his early commitment to UCLA, Strumpf says he was able to feel more relaxed during his high school career. He didn’t have the added weight of impressing college coaches who might be watching from the stands.
He batted .309 as a freshman, but the team’s final record was just 10-16. The monumental turnaround happened during Strumpf’s sophomore season, when JSerra improved to 22-8 and won the program’s second Trinity League title in school history.
The Lions then repeated as league champions each of the last two seasons, an incredible feat when considering the depth of talent in the league. Strumpf earned first-team all-league the last three seasons.
“Over time, we definitely built up the program pretty well,” Strumpf says. “We rebuilt it ourselves.”
Winning a CIF-SS title was the one accomplishment that eluded Strumpf and the Lions. They were the top-seeded team in Division I each of the last three seasons, but couldn’t reach the finals. Each time they simply ran into a red-hot team or pitcher, most recently in a 2-0 loss to Harvard-Westlake in the semifinals May 31 in Long Beach.
The season may not have lasted that long if not for Strumpf’s three-run homer 11 days earlier in a 3-0 first-round win against Dana Hills.
“That was probably the most exciting at-bat I’ve ever had,” he says.
A moment he wished he could live over and over, but there’s still much to experience ahead.