Petco Park remains the field of dreams for high school baseball players who compete within the boundaries of the San Diego Section.
The Padres’ ballpark stands as a gateway to Major League Baseball. Its attraction is immediately alluring for those who want to someday play in it.
Some may just get their chance from the latest class of locals selected to play in the 2021 Padres High School All-Star Game on June 24.
The East Team, coached by Santana head coach Rigo Ledezma, featured a lineup heavy on East County high school talent.
Players from 12 Grossmont Conference schools were represented on the roster, including three each from Granite Hills, Grossmont and Steele Canyon high schools, two from Santana High School and one from Monte Vista High School. El Cajon’s Christian High School also contributed one player.
Assistant coaches included Monte Vista’s Craig Neu, Christian’s Mike Mitchell and Santana’s Aidan Rasmusson and Elden Whisman.
East County players in the nine-inning game included Monte Vista senior pitcher Andy Canedo, Steele Canyon junior outfielder/infielder Weston Clark, Santana senior outfielder Cole Contreras, Steele Canyon senior catcher Jake Entrekin, Steele Canyon senior shortstop/pitcher Sebastian Granados, Santana senior outfielder/pitcher Tyler Glowacki, Grossmont senior third baseman/catcher Isaiah Gomez, Granite Hills junior first baseman Grant MacArthur, Granite Hills senior pitcher Noa Ponciano, Christian senior outfielder/pitcher Braeden Ross, Granite Hills senior outfielder/pitcher Austin Smith, Grossmont senior pitcher/outfielder Evan Vasiliou and Grossmont senior pitcher Jaden Wilcox.
Entrekin, Gomez and MacArthur were selected to compete in the pregame home run derby. MacArthur joined Bonita Vista senior shortstop/outfielder Daniel McElveny in the finals en route to eventually winning the contest with seven home runs.
“It’s crazy,” said MacArthur, who hit seven home runs during the regular season. “As a junior, I didn’t expect much. I was just hoping to hit one home run.”
It proved to be an eventful evening for MacArthur, who finished the game with the Most Valuable Player award after knocking in the game-winning runs during the East’s two-run rally in the top of the eighth inning.
Vasiliou started the rally with a one-out single through the left side of the infield. Smith followed with a two-out single and a wild pitch moved both runners up a base. The bases were loaded following a walk to Gomez.
However, MacArthur promptly found himself behind in the count 0-2 to Mira Mesa’s Jackson Betancourt before things started to get very tense.
The Granite Hills hitter remained disciplined at the plate and took a pair of pitches to even the count at 2-2.
MacArthur slapped the next pitch for a basehit to score two runs. “He had thrown me two sliders, both in the dirt,” the Eagle batsman said. “I knew he couldn’t afford to throw another one in the dirt with the bases loaded, so I was expecting a fastball. It was there.”
MacArthur finished the game with three hits.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “Being here as a fan and being here as a player.”
Smith had two hits and scored two runs while Gomez, Granados and Vasiliou each scored one run to boost the East squad.
Vasiliou, Canedo, Ponciano, Wilcox and Granados each took turns on the mound.
Canedo retired the side in order in his one frame of work. Granados pitched the final inning, recording a pair of strikeouts.
The East scored three runs in the top of the third inning to take the early lead. But the West countered with three runs of its own in the bottom of the frame to knot the score.
The East regained the lead at 5-3 in the top of the fourth inning on a pair of runs scored on wild pitches.
The West tied the game, 5-5, in the bottom of the seventh inning but Entrekin prevented further damage when he alertly threw out a runner at first base while another runner was heading home with the bases loaded.
“It’s a pretty surreal moment to play on the same field as Major Leaguers,” Vasiliou said. “It’s an awesome feeling.”
The feeling was the same for everyone involved.
“It’s a great experience,” said Canedo, who has committed to UC Riverside on a full-ride scholarship. “I was here as a freshman and got to come back as a senior. As a freshman I didn’t get to pitch because I played third base then. Now I’m pitching and got to be on the same mound as the Major League players pitch on.”