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That Ronnie Warner nearly made it to this year’s World Series as a third base coach for the St. Louis Cardinals — beaten in the National League Championship Series by Washington — begs the question.
Has there ever been Redlands participation in the Fall Classic?
Best anyone can attest to a local ballplayer being part of the World Series dates back to former Angels’ catcher Dan Whitmer, a Redlands High product, who was a Detroit coach.
Whitmer’s playing career concluded in the early 1980s, but somehow he attracted the attention of Detroit Tigers’ eventual Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson.
By 1984, Whitmer was bullpen catcher for the Tigers, a team that won 35 of their first 40 games en route to beating San Diego in the World Series. Whitmer wasn’t around for that hot start, though. He picked up his coaching job at mid-season, having started 1984 playing in Detroit’s minor league system.
Among Whitmer’s duties was warming up relief pitchers.
Willie Hernandez, a southpaw, had a monster year out of the Tigers’ bullpen. He was that year’s Cy Young Award winner, not to mention the American League’s MVP off a 9-3 record, 32 saves, 1.68 ERA, 140 innings over 80 relief appearances.
There was Whitmer, sitting in the Tigers’ ’pen, waiting for that call from Sparky to crank up his bullpen ace.
That’s one reason they won the World Series. Warner came close. Whitmer pulled off a ring.
While Warner, an infielder, never made it to the majors as a player, Whitmer’s brief appearances for both the Angels and Toronto totaled seven RBI and a .229 average.
Ever since Rod Anzai left as a Redlands High School track/cross country coach, truthfully, there’s been a downward spiral in the distance-running success from that campus.
Hate to say it, but Anzai had some significant naysayers. Which relates to the fact that he’s now long since departed.
Anzai coached 800, 1600 and 3200 runners on those Lady Terrier 2014 and 2015 CIF, Division 2 track & field championships. He made his mark as a cross country coach for years.
Throw Lew Farwell into that coaching mix. He had plenty of connection — still does, in fact — with the sensational hurdler-sprinter-jumper Juanita Webster.
Anzai, now the cross country at Irvine Portola High — new school with no senior class — had his team is ranked No. 5 in CIF Division 3.
He spent one season at Banning, taking second in the 2018, eight-team Desert Valley League, for a longtime weak program.
There was some significant success at Moreno Valley Vista del Lago.
Anzai-coached teams racked up plenty of success at Redlands. Tough, tough guy. Believes strongly in a disciplined approach. It could’ve led to his undoing.
Anzai, now 79, sold his Redlands home, moved to Laguna Beach, not that far of a jump from his current Irvine coaching digs.
So much more to all those stories — amazing, in fact. Good stuff. Questionable stuff. You name it.
* * *
Recent interviews conducted:
Redlands High’s Doug Haugh, playing his red-shirt sophomore season at Valparaiso in Indiana.
Former REV cornerback Isaiah Armstrong, a BYU graduate this past spring, playing his final collegiate season at Northwestern Louisiana.
Armstrong, incidentally, went up against LSU, then ranked No. 2, earlier this season for NWL.
Look for their stories in coming weeks. Still waiting for something with Arizona State’s Claire Kovensky, a one-time Citrus Valley volleyballer. Hasn’t called back.
Wonder if ASU will take on Auburn next season? We’ll check. It could be that Kovensky and soon-to-be-graduated Jackie Barrett, who is Auburn-bound, will cross paths in college. * * * Lance Evbuomwan, a significant piece in Redlands East Valley High’s football past, also played basketball for the Wildcats. It’s that background that’ll carry him into this season as Arrowhead Christian Academy’s boys’ hoops coach. ACA’s Russ DeKock, incidentally, was on the lookout for a tennis coach to replace the departed Ronnie Griffin.
* * *
Maybe it’s time, noted a significant Redlands-area coach, that the trio of Redlands-based public high school shouldn’t all be participating in the traditionally significant Citrus Belt League.
Nothing official, especially since the 2020-21 school year will enter into a newly aligned league that ushers in Beaumont High and ushers out Rialto Carter — with Citrus Valley, Cajon, Redlands, Yucaipa and REV rounding out the six-school grouping.
Nothing — repeat, nothing — has even been discussed yet, at least officially. Truth is, athletics could be taking a serious dive in talent over various sports.
Looking ahead, here’s a fair head start for a six-team CBL: San Gorgonio, Fontana Kaiser, Citrus Valley, Yucaipa, Cajon and, well, name that sixth school. Beaumont has the numbers.