April 17, 2009
By John Philip Wyllie
New SDSU football coach Brady Hoke should take a lesson from Aztec Baseball coach Tony Gwynn. There is a lot of talent to be mined right here in San Diego. Gwynn has capitalized on that homegrown talent by signing players like West Hills High grad Stephen Strasburg, Fallbrook High’s Erik Castro and most recently, former Montgomery Aztec Brandon Meredith and former Eastlake Titan, Jomel Torres. As a result, Gwynn’s 25-13 Aztecs sit atop the Mountain West Conference standings and are ranked in the top 20 nationally.
Torres, a freshman, was beginning to establish himself in the Aztecs starting lineup when a leg injury temporarily knocked him out of action. Prior to the injury, Torres was hitting .357 with six RBIs and a double while playing first base and outfield.
When it was time to look for a scholarship last year’s Mesa League Player of the Year, had plenty of offers, but he elected to stay close to home.
“It is great to be playing in my home town and it is great to have a coach like Tony Gwynn. All of the coaches have been really great and I really like the atmosphere here with my teammates,” Torres said after watching the Aztecs rout U.C. Davis last week at Petco Park.
Torres credits the coaching he received at Eastlake with helping him to reach this next level.
“Having Dave Gonzalez in my earlier years followed by coach Hermosillo and coach Gallegos was a big help. They helped me to get through the process and prepared me for college. They taught me a lot of good hitting techniques.”
That solid coaching has continued now that Torres is in college.
“The coaches here have guided through the freshman process and have helped me to get acquainted with what they are trying to teach us about winning baseball. I am really happy that I enrolled here. The recruiting class that came in with me has helped to make this a really comfortable experience. It has been great and I am loving it, so I am really pleased with my choice of San Diego State.”
Torres’s .357 batting average attests to the fact that he has made a successful transition from high school to collegiate baseball. That does not mean that it has always been easy.
“High school baseball is much more laid back. This is a much quicker game here on the college level.”
Torres has been particularly pleased with the coaching of Tony Gwynn.
“He is amazing. He has guided me through everything. With both of us being leftys it has been easier for me to understand what he has been showing me. He emphasizes repetition and getting into the proper position.”
While Torres missed out on the opportunity to play this year at Petco Park due to his injury, he and current teammate Brandon Meredith played against each other at the downtown ballpark last season while still in high school. If Torres gets his wish, he will one day be visiting this ballpark on a regular basis, as a major leaguer.