Righthander Andrew Church is taking the road less traveled this spring. Church transferred to Basic High in Henderson, Nev., after spending the past two years at Palo Verde High in Las Vegas. Church has been at the school all year, but was ruled ineligible about a week before the season started.
“What I heard from the school is that I’d be 100 percent eligible if I moved down there,” Church said. “So I moved down and now the athletic board ruled me ineligible. We’re going through an appeal process now.”
Church moved into Basic’s school district by himself. He is already 18 years old and got an apartment within the school’s boundaries, about 45 minutes away from the rest of his family.
“It’s not that hard,” Church said. “I feel I’m mature enough to handle it. It’s pretty cool. I had to learn quickly how to live, though.”
The board Church referenced is the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.
Even without a high school team to pitch for, Church is staying busy. He is still able to throw bullpen sessions for scouts and will head to Maryvale, Ariz., this weekend to pitch against Milwaukee Brewers minor leaguers as a member of the Langley Blaze, a travel team typically comprised of players from British Columbia.
“I’ve just been getting any games I can in and practicing and working out,” Church said. “Hopefully this all clears up and I can start playing.”
Church ranked as the No. 90 high school prospect in the country heading into the season. He has a 6-foot-1, 185-pound build and shows some feel for a four-pitch mix. His fastball sits in the 89-92 mph range with some riding life and he’s dialed it up as high as 95. Church mixes in a mid-to-upper 70s curveball and a changeup and slider that are both in the 78-80 mph range. Church has swing-and-miss stuff and has cleaned up his delivery since the summer showcase circuit. A member of Team Vegas in the summer and fall, Church is committed to San Diego as part of the Torero’s outstanding class.
If Church doesn’t pitch for his high school team this season, it will be the third-straight year for him. The last time he pitched for his high school team was with Bishop Gorman High (Las Vegas), as a freshman. He transferred to Palo Verde and had to sit out his sophomore year because of transfer rules. A dispute with the coaching staff caused him not to pitch during his junior year.
“The coach that was there, that I’ve known forever, got fired,” Church said. “And they hired a golf coach who kind of didn’t like the upperclassmen. He had his son and all his friends brought up. The guy told us he’s never played baseball and he’s actually fired now.”
The coach at Basic High is Scott Baker, who was an assistant coach at Bishop Gorman, when Church was there as a freshman. Baker is a graduate of Basic High and was a seventh-round pick out of Taft (Calif.) JC in 1990. He pitched professionally for 13 years and appeared in one game in the big leagues with the Athletics in 1995.
Church isn’t the only player who was ruled ineligible for Basic this spring. Initially, there were three juniors, too: righthander Mikey York, shortstop Skylar Mahoney and third baseman Ali Deolarte. York and Mahoney have since been cleared and Deolarte went back to his old school, Valley High in Las Vegas, where he is playing.
If nothing is resolved with regard to Church’s appeal, he is considering heading to California on weekends to pitch in the ABD spring league or for the Pasadena Redbirds.
“It’s frustrating,” Church said. “That’s exactly what sucks the most is that I can’t control it. I know that it’s not my fault and I know it’s nothing that’s controllable, so it’s nothing to get furious about and get upset about, but I’m trying to make the best of it.”