The end of 2022 was marked by several Hollister High student-athletes realizing their dreams of signing a letter of intent to play sports in college or committing to a four-year program.
Adrian Ruiz, Breyon Chavez, Jaden Mingus and Jocelyn Alexander were honored in a signing ceremony in the school library on Nov. 9, the first day of the early signing period for high school athletes in sports other than football.
Chavez (Cal State Monterey Bay), Mingus (Westmont) and Ruiz (Sonoma State) all play baseball, while Alexander earned a scholarship in the throwing events for Cal State Fullerton’s track and field team.
The tradition-rich Hollister softball team already has three players—including two for Division I programs—committed to play in college, and the season doesn’t even start until March. The latest player to verbal was junior Madeline Bermudez, who committed to Cal Poly two weeks ago.
Also from the softball team, senior Laila Rueda has committed to play at Avila University in Kansas City (KCAC) and junior Mia Phillips has committed to Cal. Phillips is a slick-fielding infielder and highly regarded for her speed, glove and bat.
Rueda has provided the softball team with grit, hustle and the intangibles every team needs to be successful. And Bermudez parlayed a tremendous sophomore season playing left field into an equally productive travel ball season. Bermudez competed in key showcase events which got her recognized by college coaches and also suited up for Team Mexico’s 16U team in the Triple Crown International Challenge, one of the largest tournaments in the world.
The event took place June 24-26 just outside of Denver. Bermudez was selected out of over 600 applicants, with over 20 countries represented in the tournament. Mexico played three pool games—against Team USA, the Philippines and Italy—before losing 5-4 against Canada in a bracket elimination contest.
The earliest high schoolers can sign their letter of intent is in November of their senior year. In the signing ceremony, Hollister Athletic Director Tod Thatcher said while the school has honored many athletes previously, Alexander, Chavez, Mingus and Ruiz might be his “favorite group” because he has a relationship with all of them.
In the same way, the quartet holds a special place in baseball coach Billy Aviles’ heart because he has known them since they were all in grade school. Aviles has coached the baseball players since they were in t-ball and has known Alexander since she was at Spring Grove School.
Alexander placed first in the shot put and second in the discus in last year’s Central Coast Section Championships to make State in both events. Haybalers co-track and field coach Ryan Shorey encouraged Alexander to come out for the team in her freshman year, and immediately predicted she would be a “great shot putter.”
Two years later, Alexander was a CCS champion in the event. Aviles was effusive in his praise for the baseball players because of their collective work ethic and love for the game. He rarely, if ever, had to be anxious about any of them—no small feat.
“They’re definitely low maintenance players who you don’t have to worry about,” Aviles said. “You know they’re going to work hard. They’re the baseball gym rats and grinders who just love the game. Those guys play every day and twice on Sunday. That’s just how they’re programmed. They have a true passion for the game and it definitely oozes out of their pores. When they’re on the field, they’re never not hustling.”
Another commonality among the trio is they train and play at KPI and Dub Baseball in Morgan Hill. Mingus and Ruiz also did their most recent travel ball with the Monterey Bay Pirates. With Ruiz manning center field, the 6-foot, 185-pound Mingus playing second base and Chavez at shortstop, the Hollister baseball team looks primed for another solid season.
In a text message to the Free Lance, Chavez summed up the entire experience the best, giving thanks to his loved ones and capturing the emotion of the gravity of the moment.
“Signing Day meant a lot for me because it is a step closer to my dream of playing at the next level,” Chavez said. “It was amazing to see my family, friends and coaches there to support me and to be able to thank them because without them I wouldn’t be the player or person I am today.”
No doubt the rest of his fellow teammates and signees felt the same way.