Best friends since elementary school, Central Valley High School’s Gabrial Lopez and Ryan Estermann will continue their baseball journey together this summer.
Lopez and Estermann will suit up for the Hac-Man Competitive Travel Baseball program’s 16-and-under team.
“Hopefully, both of us can thrive and help the team win,” said Lopez, who will contribute at pitcher, third base, first base and catcher.
“We’ve made a lot of memories together in baseball,” said Estermann, who will log playing time at second base and pitcher. “He pushes me to be a better player and I try to do the same for him. We always try to help each other out.”
The Roseville-based team is coached by former Major League Baseball player Jeffrey “Hac-Man” Leonard.
He played 14 MLB seasons, including seven with the Giants.
“It’s a great opportunity to play for someone like him,” Estermann said. “He knows what it takes to get to the MLB. He also has a lot of connections. Hac-Man Baseball does a great job of scheduling tournaments where you get to play in front of scouts.”
“His name sounded familiar,” Lopez said. “I definitely did some Googling. I watched interviews on YouTube. He’s an old-school coach. He says it how he sees it. He’s truthful. He values the mental part of sports. My whole goal is to do what he did.”
Lopez, Estermann and the Hac-Man Baseball team will play in a total of five tournaments through the month of July.
They practice Tuesdays and Thursdays at the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Florin.
Players have to have a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 to be eligible to play for the team. “It’s going to be a challenge,” Estermann said. “But I’ve been challenged before. I’ve been playing baseball since I was five. I know how to deal with it (pressure).”
Lopez and Estermann were both key players during the Central Valley High School varsity baseball team’s COVID-19 shortened spring season.
Lopez, a sophomore utility player, batted .318 with one double, two RBIs and five runs for the 2-5-1 Hawks.
He ranked first on the team in batting average, hits and runs.
Lopez tallied 21 strikeouts while logging 171/3 innings of work at pitcher.
Estermann collected a team-high seven RBIs on offense. The freshman infielder totaled three hits, one double and two runs.
He compiled a 1-0 record at pitcher with a 0.00 ERA, eight strikeouts and one walk.
Estermann allowed two unearned runs and two hits in seven innings.
“We’ve been teammates and he’s been my closest friend since six years old,” Lopez said. “It would be cool to go to the same college and play on the same baseball team.”