How Santa Margarita High has become a catchers’ paradise

As early college signing day approaches this week, a once-in-a-lifetime convergence of high school baseball talent is taking place at Catcher for Santa Margarita High.

The Eagles have three catchers from the Class of 2023 who could be major leagues. The fact that Blake Balsz (UCLA), Luke Lavin (Stanford), and Bryce Humphry (San Francisco) all came as freshmen and competed for four years, each earning a college scholarship at the catcher position, is rare.

They will sign letters of intent on Wednesday.

“It’s crazy,” Balsz said. “Luke, Bryce and I have been competing every year since we first trained in the first year. It has never been boring. We enjoyed the grind. Everything we want for each other is the best because we have exactly the same goals.”

“The competition between us has made us better and everyone is such a competitor that we welcomed them,” said Lavin.

“It’s been a long process,” Humphry said. “We’re all good friends and it worked out.”

Something must be coming out of Santa Margarita’s drinking fountains, because there’s a fourth senior catcher, Charlie Lapp, who also reportedly plays college baseball, and a fifth catcher, Junior Jake Lavin, Luke’s younger brother, who signed on to Kal .

Catchers were told to go behind home plate during tryouts in summer 2019. Only then did they realize how much talent there was.

“It was, ‘Wow, you have to compete and play hard to show you want to start,'” Balsz said. “We all worked hard and formed the team and nurtured each other and were great teammates.”

Humphry added, “It’s going to be a dogfight. It was and is.”

Balsz and Lavin played in junior varsity in 2020 while Humphry was on the freshman team. Since then, Balsz and Lavin have shared varsity-level catcher duties while playing other infield positions. Humphry learned to play in the outfield but caught so well last summer that USF made him an offer.

“I got a very different perspective on the game as an outfielder and felt like it helped my game improve,” Humphry said. “It’s been nice to contribute in a different way and become more of a utility player.”

Santa Margarita coach Chris Malec was thrilled that all three decided to persevere and use competition to improve as catchers.

“It was certainly a big surprise to know that everyone would be a big part of our program,” Malec said. “It was exciting and you see them developing as young men and good baseball players. They come from good families, highly learned children, very unselfish. As the saying goes, iron sharpens iron. They pushed each other. You live off the competition. They have worked together for a team first mentality.”

In the recent history of high school baseball, Studio City Harvard-Westlake had three pitchers from its 2012 team who became first-round draft picks and major league pitchers – Lucas Giolito, Max Fried and Jack Flaherty. But they weren’t from the same senior year. Chatsworth had two first-round picks in 2007, Mike Moustakas and Matt Dominguez.

The Santa Margarita trio are expected to play in college before attempting to turn pro. Imagine the fun Malec will have watching a Stanford-UCLA game or a Stanford-USF game and maybe watching two of his catchers compete.

“You look at them like your own children,” he said. “You sit back and enjoy the moment and watch it and celebrate its success as if it were one of your own children.”

By staying and competing against his friends each season, Balsz said he learned lessons he will use for the rest of his life.

“It’s helped me to compete and never give up, trust in your abilities and keep grinding,” he said. “It taught me a lesson: ‘Don’t take it lightly.’ For me it helps me to play better when I have competition.” How Santa Margarita High has become a catchers’ paradise

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