Central Valley High School sophomore-to-be Gabrial Lopez returned home from Arizona on June 28.
Lopez, 14, gained valuable experience while suiting up for the Walnut Creek-based Golden Era 15-and-under college development team at the June 22-27 USA Baseball West National Team Championships.
The event was staged at Major League Baseball Spring Training facilities in Glendale, Goodyear and Peoria.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity,” said Lopez, who stands 5 feet 11 and weighs 185 pounds. “I had a good time.”
“I got to step back and be a fan,” said Antone Lopez, Gabrial’s father and longtime coach. “It was the elite of the elite. There were some pretty impressive athletes out there. He was out of his comfort zone but he played well.”
Lopez and other players showcased their skills on Testing Day at the Peoria Sports Complex on June 22.
USA Baseball placed an emphasis on swing velocity, launch angle and arm velocity.
“He got to see how he matched up against kids his age,” Antone Lopez said. “He got really good feedback from the coaches. It was eye-opening.”
“There were people with clipboards standing around watching your every move,” said Gabrial Lopez, who tested at third base and catcher. “I feel like I could have tested a little better.”
Golden Era compiled a 1-5 record while playing six games in five days.
Walnut Creek suffered five straight losses.
“We didn’t do as well as we wanted to,” Gabrial Lopez said. “But we competed. It wasn’t like we got blown out every game.”
Lopez was a major contributor during his first season with Central Valley’s varsity baseball team last spring.
He posted a 2-5 record with a 3.71 ERA, 55 strikeouts, one shutout and one complete game at pitcher.
He batted .354 from the plate with seven doubles, 19 RBIs, 10 runs and 11 walks.
He had a .427 on-base percentage.
The Hawks amassed an 11-16 overall record and tied for last place during their first season in the revamped Central California Conference (2-10).
“You always have room to improve,” Gabrial Lopez said. “You can never be satisfied.”