Aranda a rarity in today’s era

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Balers senior Marcus Aranda has found his niche on the boys basketball team. Photo by Robert Eliason.

In the ever-increasing age of sports specialization, Marcus Aranda represents a time of a bygone era when athletes played three different sports year-round. When the San Benito High senior graduates in early June, he will have played four years of baseball, basketball and football, a remarkable achievement that speaks to his love for all three sports.

“I have a passion for all of them,” he said. “They’re all different, and I enjoy each of them because they give me different challenges. They all have a different pace to the game, and I love them all.”

The 6-foot, 200-pound Aranda is currently playing on the boys basketball team, which starts Pacific Coast League Mission Division play at Christopher High on Jan. 14. The result will be vital for the Haybalers, who have already been blown out by the Cougars earlier this season in a non-league contest. Christopher is also one of the favorites to win the league championship, so this will be a measuring stick game for the Balers.

“We’ve been up and down (with our play this season) and trying to figure out who we really are,” Aranda said. “Sometimes we go down to another team’s level, but if we stay consistent, we can be really good.”

A burly power forward, Aranda has been impressed with teammates Thomas Breen and Jaiden Freidt, noting the energy both players bring to the court whether it’s a game or in practice.

“Thomas is probably the hardest worker we have,” Aranda said. “He brings the most energy to practice and is the most passionate about the game. He pushes everyone to go harder, and the way he plays makes everyone want to play harder. He’s the team’s sparkplug. And Jaiden is a sophomore who plays hard, is a strong rebounder, is physical, finds a way to score and plays with a lot of energy. He had a super good game against Pacific Point. He kind of does everything and can probably play any position.”

It’s a testament to Aranda that he has excelled on the hardwood. After an inauspicious start to his high school career—he admittedly didn’t play well on the freshmen or junior varsity teams as a freshman or sophomore, respectively—Aranda earned a starting position on the varsity team last season. So what changed?

“Junior year I came around and figured out what I did well,” he said. “I had to really go for rebounds and be that defensive guy, rather than trying to score. Ever since then, I really started to get better.”

Once Aranda found his niche, he became an impact player on the team. A ferocious rebounder, Aranda leads by example by mixing it up with the big boys in the paint and holding his own even against players who are several inches taller. Such was the case in the Balers’ 63-34 loss to California High of San Ramon in the Alisal Tournament in early December. California had four players all around 6-foot-5 or taller, making Aranda’s job ultra difficult.

“That was definitely the team’s best game and probably the game I was most proud of,” he said. “Even though we got beat by 15 or 20 points, they were a super good team. But I felt like we all clicked and worked really hard that game, and we had never played like that before. They had some big guys—one guy was 6-9, but I had to be physical with him and everyone else. In that game, I felt like I led the defense pretty well and I was being loud and communicating on defense. I came out with a lot of energy and was physical and getting rebounds. Once the team sees that, they tend to follow that example.”

When it comes to rebounding, Aranda said it’s all abut grit and determination.

“Rebounding is about effort and desire,” he said. “You have to really want it more than the other guy to get the ball.”

More often than not, Aranda ends up with the rebound. Sometimes, the play gets chippy, and Aranda has had his moments when he’s had to be separated against opposing players.

“You’re both fighting for something and not wanting to back down, and you just have to be careful not to let your mind take over (or else it could lead to a fight),” he said.

Even though basketball and football are different sports, Aranda brings the same mindset to each game—he goes out there looking to play physical. In football, of course, he can actually tackle opposing players, which he did often in his first season of playing middle linebacker last season. A three-year varsity player on the football team, Aranda played defensive end as a sophomore and outside linebacker in his junior year. Even though it was tough playing three different positions in three years, it proved to be a worthwhile and rewarding challenge.

“Playing each position is a whole different game,” said Aranda, who earned all-PCAL Gabilan Division Second Team honors last season. “You’re responsible for different people and have different reads. You’re making a lot of calls at middle linebacker, and you have to lead the defense in certain ways. You basically have to know where everyone has to be. It was definitely a roller coaster (playing Baler football), but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There is something special about being on a football team. You really create a bond with everybody, and you get super close wit them. You celebrate the happy moments and share in the tough moments. It’s a different environment than any other sport.”

Aranda felt he played his best game of the season in a loss to Aptos in the opening round of the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs. It was one of the few times during the season when Aranda felt everything clicked, where he didn’t have to think, but simply react. Before the season started, Aranda was pretty set that this would be his final year of playing organized football.

However, he gained an even greater appreciation for the sport as the season went on, and he’s interested in playing football and basketball at the College of San Mateo (CSM) if no four-year school offers him a baseball scholarship later this year. However, after talking with San Benito baseball coach Billy Aviles, Aranda feels confident that he’ll get an offer if he puts up a strong senior season in the spring. Aviles delivered a huge compliment to Aranda in terms of the senior’s baseball skillset.

“Marcus is definitely one of the most physically gifted kids I’ve ever had here,” said Aviles, who will be entering his 10th season as the San Benito High baseball coach. “He’s a super versatile player. I can move him from catcher to the outfield, and last year I also used him at first and third base. He has all the tools and intangibles: he’s big, fast, strong, can hit and definitely has a bright future ahead of him. He’s definitely garnered some attention from Division I schools, and if he has a good senior season, there will be somebody there to make him an offer. It’s all in his hands. It’s really all in his hands.”

Aranda was born and raised in San Jose, and a huge chunk of his childhood was spent watching sports on TV with his dad, Louis. Interestingly enough, Aranda didn’t start playing sports regularly until he moved to Hollister when he was 10 years old. Aranda discovered a culture of boys playing sports in Hollister, and it made a huge impact on his life.  

“When I moved here, it was a totally different attitude to want to play sports,” Aranda said. “It’s a whole different atmosphere from where I grew up. Hollister is a small sports town. If I didn’t move here, I probably would have never started playing baseball. I wasn’t into it, but you see your friends playing it and it makes you want to join them. Since I moved here, there are three or four friends who I’ve really bonded with playing sports together. Everything kind of clicked.”

In addition to his dad, Aranda credits his older brothers, Jaime and Louis, for helping him develop sports-wise while also being able to learn from their mistakes. The older brothers provided Aranda with tough love, and it played a big part in his maturation on and off the field. Aranda had an atypical childhood in that he lived in four different homes by age 10. A lack of stability proved to be tough for Aranda, who nonetheless made the best out of a tough situation.

“We were constantly moving and I had to go to different schools in San Jose,” he said. “We got unlucky a lot of the time (in terms of moving). When I moved to Hollister, I didn’t know anything about it. But it was easy to get used to because the people were great.”

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