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Letter: Elk Grove HS Uses Open Enrollment to Build Baseball Powerhouse

A commentary on Elk Grove High School's baseball program.

Letter to the editor: "Baseball and Life"
By Dan Schmitt, Franklin High School JV Baseball Coach

Baseball is a great metaphor for life.  The game can be used to teach young players the value of hard work, commitment and working with others towards a common purpose.  Perhaps baseball’s greatest piece of wisdom is that, even with those values in place, success is not guaranteed.

As a JV baseball coach, I’ve seen these life lessons played out many times.  In a recent high school game, our JV pitchers gave up one hit and walked none.  Our defense played well.  Yet, we lost the game 3-2!  No, success is never guaranteed.  Well, almost never.  One exception to this life’s lesson is the baseball program.  It’s always successful, at least in terms of winning games and finishing at the top of the Delta Valley League.

Why is that?  Well, Elk Grove has competent baseball coaches, but so do their closest league rivals, Franklin and .  What separates Elk Grove baseball from the other high school programs is that it functions as an “elite baseball academy.”  Because of the Elk Grove Unified School District’s open enrollment policy and the fact that Elk Grove High School’s enrollment is below capacity, students living anywhere in the district can go there. 

Initially, the purpose of open enrollment was to allow students to participate in academic programs offered at certain district high schools.  It was never intended as a means to build a high school baseball powerhouse, but that is the reality.  In a recent varsity baseball game won by Elk Grove, six players living in other attendance areas started for the Herd:  two from Laguna Creek High School, two from Franklin High School, one from Sheldon High School, and one from McClatchy, a high school not even in the Elk Grove district.  At the JV level, twelve of the twenty-five Elk Grove players live outside the school’s attendance area. 

I’m stating the obvious when I say this gives the Elk Grove baseball program a huge advantage and puts the other schools at a distinct disadvantage.  For example, over the past 3 seasons, Elk Grove has played Laguna Creek nine times, with Elk Grove winning eight of the games.  In most of those games, players who should be attending Laguna Creek were instrumental in Elk Grove’s victories.  Would the results have been identical if Elk Grove had not had those players?  No one can say for sure, but it certainly would have made the games more competitive.

Over the past few years, Laguna Creek baseball has experienced a downturn in its success, but things are looking up.  Last year, Josh Lex, a former Laguna Creek player with seven years of professional baseball experience took over the program.  In that short time, he has done a tremendous job of building both the varsity and JV teams’ competitiveness.  One could rightly assume that his teams would be even more competitive if those Elk Grove players were attending Laguna Creek.  

This inequity has been going on for years.  The Elk Grove varsity coaches could discourage the yearly influx of quality players into their program, but they don’t.  Hey, they’re living the baseball dream!  Their insatiable appetite for winning games and league titles trumps any thoughts about the integrity of the game and league competitiveness, even though their success is tainted by the use of outside players. 

The players’ parents must recognize the unfairness, but they’re convinced that playing baseball for Elk Grove gives their kids an advantage in realizing future baseball aspirations.  This despite evidence to the contrary.  Over the past ten years, six Elk Grove players went on to play professional baseball; five Laguna Creek players went on to pro ball.  Many other Elk Grove players have gone on to play college ball, but the same can be said for former Laguna Creek players.

And what about the players who live in the Elk Grove High School attendance area but get cut from the team or make the team but get little playing time due to the program’s practice of bringing in outside players?  I know there’s no crying in baseball, but maybe it’s time these kids and their parents become more vocal about this unfairness.  Call it a “life lesson”!

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To submit a letter to the editor, email cody.kitaura@patch.com.

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What do you think of the open enrollment policy in Elk Grove and elsewhere? Is it fair for student athletes? Tell us in the comments section below.

Jim P. August 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Jay, you can bring up any bylaw section you want. Here is the deal.......your son or grandson is not very good! Deal with it! Get him a new hobby. You need to spend your time in a better way. The KEY WORD is TRANSFER. From what I know 2 kids transfored to Sheldon. 1 going to be a soh or jr...not sure but he got cut from PG and was going to transfer when her got cut from PG program. The other is a soph from EG and he lives in seldons area. He was going to EG and living in sheldons area. The other kids 2 kids CAN DO WHAT THEY WANT! it is open enrollment!!! But again i know Coach Hughes did not ask them to come to Sheldon. I am willing to bet that when those kids enrolled in Sheldon Coach Hughes was not even th Varsity Coach. I really think that no matter who the coach is your son / grandson will not play or get cut beacuse he is not very good.
John August 16, 2012 at 06:28 AM
I was talking about kids that transfer in as freshman? Lets say they went to a Jr. high in another area and live in another part of Sacramento and decided to go to an EG area school? I just wonder about hose incoming freshman possibly lying when they didn't even have to?
Monte August 16, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Anyone is free to register where they want in the EGUSD, except Franklin and PG and regardless of where they attended junior high. It's different if they transfer in after the school year starts.
Monte August 16, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Meaning freshmen, I should have specified.
Jay August 16, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Did I ever say that I have a son/grandson playing for the Hughes? No, I didn't, because I don't. Again, not the focus here... As for the other 2 kids that transferred to Sheldon in their 9th grade year, they CANNOT transfer and play varsity in their 9th grade year. They must complete 2 semesters at that school first and be in their 3rd semester, which is their 10th grade year. In addition, they were not transfer eligible since they DID play for the coach in the prior 24 months of the transfer. So yeah, they can DO WHAT THEY WANT, except play baseball. Read the Bylaws!

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