With its impressive list of past championships and awards — including representing the West Region in the 2009 Connie Mack World Series — the Danville Hoots Baseball Club has developed a legacy of excellence.
Composed of more than 20 of the East Bay's best players 18-years-old and younger, the amateur baseball team has brought together athletes from 10 local high schools.
"It's a lot different from our high school teams where you have some players that are really good and some players that aren't," said Raul Jacobson, a Miramonte graduate who pitches for the Hoots and will play baseball at UC Davis in fall. "With the Hoots, there's not a single player who's not good."
The caliber of the players on the Hoots is clearly exemplified by the past members of the team.
San Francisco Giants' right fielder Nate Schierholtz, Houston Astros' catcher Jason Castro and the Colorado Rockies' 2010 fifth-round draft pick Josh Slaats were all once Hoots players.
"I've never really looked at the wins and losses and achievements," said Hoots manager Don Johns, who has been with the organization since 1991. "I've looked at the players and how they've gone on to compete in college or even the majors and for me that's the measurement of what we're doing."
By such a measurement, the Danville Hoots team has done extremely well, as nearly all its players in recent years have gone on to play baseball in college.
According to catcher Scott Mitchell, who will be a senior at Dublin High in the fall, one of the attractive aspects of the team is that many college scouts look closely at Hoots players.
But for Johns, the players' increased drive to get noticed by colleges and earn scholarships has changed the face amateur baseball.
"The dynamics of the game have changed a lot," he said. "It's tough to get the same camaraderie with the team because there's so much emphasis on getting college scholarships."
Johns stressed the commitment to the team that he looks for in his Hoots players, and several members of the team agreed that such devotion is necessary for success.
"(The players show) determination, hard work, and extreme dedication to the team and to the game itself," said Scott Quinlan, a San Ramon Valley High grad who will play for Chabot College next year, and who has been involved with Hoots since he was 13.
Even though the players come from rival high schools and are vying with each other for spots on college teams, players on the Hoots get along without a problem, said catcher Steven Moen, who will be a senior at California High in the fall.
"They take a lot of pride in what they are doing, and I think they're proud to play with these other guys who are really good," said Johns.
Following last year's success, the Hoots trained weekly throughout the fall and winter, and so far this summer the team has competed in three tournaments.
After a winless tournament in Phoenix, Arizona, the Hoots placed third in Reno, Nev., with a record of 4-2, and finished fifth in Salt Lake City, Utah after going 3-3.
"This is the toughest schedule we've ever played, partially because of what we did last year," said Johns.
This weekend, the team is hosting the "Fly With The Owl" Classic at San Ramon Valley High. In their first game on Thursday, the Hoots lost to the Santa Clara Red Sox 5-3.
But for Johns and many of the players, the team's main focus is the Connie Mack Northern California State Tournament which begins Wednesday, July 21 at Chabot College. The Hoots will face off against seven other top teams in hopes of winning a spot in the regional tournament.
Despite how the team finishes at the end of the summer, the Danville Hoots Baseball Club will no doubt continue as a force in amateur baseball in the East Bay for many years to come.
First Round of 2010 Fly With the Owl Classic - July 15
Santa Clara Red Sox 5, Danville Hoots 3
Santa Clara 002 020 1 – 5 10 0
Danville 020 100 0 – 3 7 1