The distinctive sounds of football have filled the air across Trinity League athletic fields.
The deep booming voices of sun-soaked coaches are interrupted by the shrill of their whistles. Players fitted in full pads grunt as they slam into six-man blocking sleds. Only the creaking metal seems to drown out their strain.
Soon, this sports column and others like it will devote much of its space to high school football—and nowhere is there a deeper treasure trove of stories than in the Trinity League.
But before quarterbacks and linebackers begin stealing the headlines, let’s pay some heed to the great things accomplished over the summer by past and present athletes from other Trinity League sports.
Getting the most attention this summer was former Mater Dei baseball player Mike Hessman, who became the all-time home run leader in the minor leagues. Hessman, a 37-year-old first baseman who graduated from Mater Dei in 1996, hit the 433rd homer of his minor league career on August 3, breaking a record that stood for nearly 80 years.
Hessman has spent 19 seasons in the minor leagues, compared to just 109 Major League appearances in that span.
“The game has kept me young,” he told the Orange County Register.
Another Trinity League school graduate is hoping his ride in the Major Leagues is just beginning.
Trayce Thompson, a former Santa Margarita baseball and basketball star, was called up to the majors the same day Hessman hit his record-breaking home run. Thompson joined the Chicago White Sox as a reserve outfielder and made his Major League debut August 4, striking out in his only at-bat.
Thompson hopes to make a name for himself in the big leagues. He’s still better known as the younger brother of Klay Thompson, another Santa Margarita grad who became an NBA All-Star last season while helping the Golden State Warriors to the NBA title.
Thompson joined Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jared Hughes as the only two Santa Margarita graduates in the Major Leagues.
A number of high school players changed uniforms over the summer as well, and the one who might have the biggest impact is Vance Jackson, a talented basketball player who enrolled at Mater Dei.
Jackson, a 6-foot-8 small forward, played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Pasadena La Salle and his junior year at Trinity League school Bellflower St. John Bosco, where he was player of the year in the Long Beach Press-Telegram circulation area.
And then there’s Royce Lewis and Grant Shoults. These athletes won’t be changing teams this fall, but did announce their college choices for the future.
Lewis, who will be a junior third baseman with the JSerra baseball team next season, announced in early August that he had committed to UC Irvine. There’s a good chance that Lewis will never play for the Anteaters; he could be a first-round MLB draft pick in 2017. Lewis was the Trinity League player of the year as a sophomore last spring.
Shoults will be a senior at Santa Margarita in the fall and is already considered one of the top swimmers in the nation. He committed to Stanford late last month and should make a huge impact with the Cardinal. Last spring, Shoults set an Orange County record and won a CIF-SS Division I title in the 500-yard freestyle and set a national private school mark in the 200 freestyle.