Edison High's Henry Owens, Christian Lopes, Eric Snyder Dodge Draft Discussions
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif.—It's a good thing they are playing baseball, so they don't get too distracted by baseball.
Edison High in Huntington Beach, Calif. has three players who have drawn the attention of major league scouts in advance of the draft—shortstop Christian Lopes, lefthander Henry Owens and outfielder Eric Snyder.
Of course, they are excited about the draft. But they are just as excited about, and concentrating on as much as possible, their season. The Chargers were on top of the local Southern California rankings and No. 2 in Baseball America's national poll as they prepared for the nearly month-long sectional playoffs.
"That's what my focus is on," Lopes said, "getting that title and getting that ring. We're all excited about the draft, but there still is a job that needs to be done."
Edison has produced a couple of major leaguers, including longtime infielders Donnie Hill and Jeff Kent.
The league in which Edison plays, the Sunset League, has also sent plenty of players into professional baseball—first baseman J.T. Snow went to Los Alamitos High, as did Mike Kelly, the No. 2 overall pick in 1991 out of Arizona State. Fountain Valley High alumni include Kevin Romine, Chris Tillman and Luke Hudson. Angels rookie catcher Hank Conger went to Huntington Beach High (his final prep at-bat came against Tillman).
Why is Edison so deep this year?
"A winning tradition," Owens said. "I wanted to come to Edison because of that tradition, and the Sunset League competition."
That competition has been foremost on the minds of Owens and his Edison teammates. Still, there is no avoiding the draft talk . . .
"Some friends will come up and say, 'Hey, I saw a mock draft and they have you going here,' or 'you're going to be drafted there,' " Owens said.
But Owens just lets it go. "I don't go home and Google myself."
An internet search for Owens will tell you he is a long-limbed, 6-foot-7 lefty with a 90 mph fastball and a couple of other pitches to go with it. Then there is that competitiveness balanced by grace under pressure.
Owens is committed to attend Miami in the fall, but figures to go in the early rounds and might never step on the mound for the Hurricanes. Right, Henry?
"My focus is on the season and the playoffs," Owens said. "It's like my dad (Mike) says, 'Enjoy your senior year.' "
Lopes is enjoying his. He was heavily-lauded even before his high school days began, winding up high on all sorts of youth player rankings. Lopes, who signed with Southern California, began his high school baseball life at Valencia High, in northern Los Angeles County, before he and younger brother Timmy moved to Orange County and transferred to Edison before the 2010 season.
"He's the best player we've ever coached or seen," was how Valencia coach Jared Snyder described the departure of Christian Lopes.
It was hard to live up to the expectations. Lopes batted .275 in 2010—pretty good for a major league shortstop, not so good for highly-regarded high school prospect. Coming into the 2011 season, the Los Angeles Times' ranking of top returning players included Lopes with this line: "Last chance to live up to the hype."
"Lopes plays to the level of the competition," a National League crosschecker said. "He's a below-average runner and he doesn't do one thing that jumps out at you. So, you have to watch him a lot to appreciate it."
Lopes said such talk fuels his fire.
"All of that stuff has helped me, being constantly under the microscope," he said. "Being under that scrutiny when I was younger just made me stronger. There's nothing better than hearing things like 'he needs to work harder.' "
So far, so good for Lopes in 2011. He took a .352 average into the final week of Edison's regular season, and his 23 RBIs already surpassed his 2010 total. Lopes, 6-foot and 180 pounds, has been slick yet steady at shortstop.
"Slick yet steady" could also be applied to Snyder in center field. With the speed and anticipation at his position, Snyder is an outstanding fielder. And as Edison's leadoff man, Snyder had gone hitless in only six of Edison's 24 games against challenging Southern California competition, posting a .351 average.
Snyder, like Lopes and Owens, tries to separate himself from the chatter.
"It's just a great honor, seeing your name on some of the draft boards," Snyder said. "But I'm focusing on this high school season. I'm thinking more about trying to help us get to a CIF championship game, and winning that game, hopefully."
Edison coach Steve Lambright said Lopes, Owens and Snyder have not allowed draft talk to distract them.
"Those three are handling it really well," said Lambright, who played on Cal State Fullerton's 1984 national championship team. "They're putting up nice numbers, doing what big-time players are supposed to do. They're all three so mentally strong, they're not allowing anything to be a distraction."
Of the three Edison prospects, Snyder might be the most likely to go college instead of pro after the draft.
"I can see Eric Snyder as a great college baseball player," one scout said, "and UCLA seems like the perfect place for him to do that."
But then it's hard to make a prediction about Snyder. Some years ago, a wall in his bedroom was painted with a depiction of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of USC football, with the Coliseum scoreboard reporting a USC victory over UCLA. Talk about a future Trojan.
"I grew up as a USC fan," Snyder said. "But I chose UCLA because of the coaching staff and education there, really. UCLA caught my eye."
It remains to be seen what teams will catch Snyder, Lopes and Owens in the draft. Until then, these three still have their baseball present on their minds now, with their baseball future somewhere down the road—but closing in, fast.
Steve Fryer covers high school sports for the Orange County Register