By John Philip Wyllie
Buried in the Mesa League baseball standings these last few years, the Chula Vista Spartans (12-4) are looking very much like a contender this spring as they prepare to begin league play. Head coach Jim Westlund believes that the family atmosphere that has been created at the South Bay school has been a key to the team’s recent improvement. Two of the biggest contributors have been brothers Jorge and Bernardo Rosas.
Junior Jorge Rosas catches for the Spartans and has been described as a quiet leader.
“He has just been outstanding with his bat,” said Westlund. Rosas is hitting an impressive .485 and has a home run and four doubles 16 games into the season. His biggest contribution however, might be his play behind the plate. He is also an excellent pitcher, but he is so valuable as a catcher that he rarely gets that opportunity.
“When he catches everybody in our defense calms down. They trust what he is doing,” Westlund said.
Sophomore Bernardo Rosas, Jorge’s little brother has impressed at shortstop and on the mound for the Spartans.
“He was our starting pitcher in a tournament championship game against Serra High earlier this year and he only gave up one run. He is a gamer. He wants to be in the game when the pressure situation falls on him. I think shortstop will become his primary position. Bernardo is one of the best shortstops that we have had here. He is on the level of (former Spartan) Ty Wigginton (who currently plays for the Houston Astros).”
The familial ties don’t end with the Rosas brothers. Their cousins Thomas and Chris Castro have also been primary contributors.
“Thomas Castro has been our rock at third base. It doesn’t matter how hard the ball has been hit or the kind of hop it has taken. He is going to get himself in front of that ball and throw the runner out. He is right up there with any third basemen we have ever had.
There is something that he has that I really like and that is heart.”
With Rosas at shortstop and Castro at third, opposing teams have had a hard time scoring runs because they rarely make any errors.
“Chris Castro is our utility infielder and he has also come on to pitch a few times. He pushes all the other players to work hard.” They know if they don’t, they will lose playing time to him.”
Two other players that are more distantly related are pitcher, Allen Mercado and outfielder, Joe Johnson. Mercado has been especially impressive on the mound.
Naturally, not everybody on this team has a brother, cousin, uncle or nephew for a teammate, but everyone has bought into Westlund’s concept that a team should act like a family.
“There are so many connections out here beyond baseball and that is one of our strengths. These guys like to hang out with one another in the off-season and on the weekends,” Westlund said.
That family concept has spread to other key contributors such as Roberto Lucero and Carlo Sanchez .
“We have a little magic going now,” Westlund said. Everyone has made a commitment to working hard and to playing better defense. Little pieces to the bigger puzzle have come together this year. These guys have really bought into the team philosophy that we have been preaching.”