Third-year coach Bryan Whitfield is trying to change the baseball culture at Jordan High, where the Panthers haven’t beaten a non-Compton team in Moore League place since 2016. Whitfield has started a year-around schedule for his players, and hopes that leads to a higher baseball IQ.
“It’s been a big hurdle getting up to speed with baseball knowledge,” Whitfield said. “We’re trying to teach these guys the game with innings. We haven’t played a lot of innings compared to Poly, Lakewood, Millikan and Wilson. That’s a big advantage.”
Whitfield has jumped at the opportunities for extra practice offered at the nearby MLB Academy. The Panthers send a few players over every day after practice, and Whitfield said he sees the improvement when they get back to campus.
“Expectations for baseball are kind of low around here, but inside the lines as a collective group I think we can get some things done,” Whitfield said. “The goal is always to make playoffs but I think we can surprise some teams in the league.”
First-Team All-Moore League third baseman Jesse Chavira (pictured) has been a reliable team leader for the last two years.
“Our expectations are very high,” Chavira said. “In the past years we’ve just been getting stomped on. This year it’s looking very promising. We’re keeping up in the scrimmages against other local teams. In the past, we were getting blown out in those games. We’re going to put up a fight this year. We’re ready to go.”
After the graduation of All-Moore League pitcher Adrian Lopez, the Panthers will rely on a big pitching staff to survive. Seniors Hector Santillan and Fernando Soto will be the likely starters after two years in the program.
“We know we can throw strikes collectively,” Whitfield said. “We’re not going to put a lot of pressure on our staff.”
Gahr transfer catcher Angel Hernandez will have to quickly develop a relationship with all of those pitchers, and the senior brings a lot of quality experience from a respected local program.
“He’s been everything we’ve asked him to be,” Whitfield said. “It’s been uplifting to have his knowledge. He’s a big key to this team.”
Jordan will have plenty of speed in the lineup with second baseman Bryan Whitfield, center fielder Jason Channel and right fielder Jaylen Powell.
“In the past it was a bunch of ‘I’ guys,” Chavira said. “This year we have a bunch of dudes that are willing to give an arm and a leg for the next dude. Like laying down the bunt instead of not taking the bunt sign and swinging away.”
“What I’m really stressing this year is togetherness and playing hard with grit,” Whitfield said. “We feel like this is a group of guys buying in. If we play together we can play better in tight games.”
Jordan is in CIF-SS Division 6 this season.