Former players come out in bunches for Hart Baseball Alumni Game

Members of the current Hart High School varsity and junior varisty baseball squds line up before the alumni game. Ryan Painter/The Signal.

It’s not often that you get TV cameras and a plentiful crowd for a high school baseball alumni game, but that’s become the norm for Hart over the years.

When you have the kind of alumni base that the Indians boast it shouldn’t come as a shock, though.

Former Indians Roc Murray and Tad Venger were inducted to the team’s Wall of Fame at the Hart Alumni Game on a windy  Sunday afternoon at Hart. San Francisco Giants catcher Trevor Brown and Pittsburgh Pirates infield prospect Nick Valaika made up a sampling of the alumni on hand to watch and play in the three-inning exhibition.

Santa Clarita City Councilman and Hart graduate Cameron Smyth threw out the first pitch for the contest.

Many former Hart HS alumni came back to their alma mater on Sunday to play in the 2018 Hart Baseball Team Preview and Alumni Game, held at Hart’s campus in Newhall, Calif. Ryan Painter/The Signal.

“It’s greatly appreciated when the guys come out here for a couple hours and shake hands and all that kind of stuff,” said Hart coach Jim Ozella. “It’s very inspiring for our players. These guys were just like these kids one day and the fun thing about Hart is that the list of alumni in the pros just keeps on growing.”

Murray and Venger, who are first cousins, both graduated from Hart in 1977 following decorated prep careers. Murray was an All-Foothill league first teamer his senior year and has 33 years of high school baseball coaching experience, including 23 years as the coach of Rocklin High School in Northern California.

“A lot of the old memories start to flood back through being out here,” Murray said. “I haven’t had the chance to come back the last few years because I was in the middle of my coaching season. It’s great to see a lot of familiar faces.” 

Venger was a three-sport athlete for the Indians and was selected by the Cincinnati Reds with the 24th overall pick of the 1977 MLB First-Year Player Draft. He was Hart’s first first-round pick in the MLB Draft. Venger played five seasons in the minors, serving a stint with the Kansas City Royals as well.

“It’s a pretty amazing opportunity for us to both go on the Wall of Fame at the same time,”  Venger said. “Santa Clarita completely changed my life and I’m extremely honored by all of this.”

Murray’s father, Bud, who coached Hart to 26 Foothill League title and a CIF-Southern Section Division 2 title in 1999, was in attendance to watch his son and nephew honored prior to the game.

MORE: Hart softball makes jump to Division 1, other CIF-SS playoff groupings announced

“You always want your kids to do better than you did,” Bud Murray said. “I’m glad to see them honored together.”

Brown, who played in 58 games for the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate last season, didn’t play in the contest after participating in his UCLA alumni game earlier in the weekend. But he didn’t want to miss the chance to come out enjoy all the alumni game had to offer.

The best part about it for me is seeing old buddies I used to play with and seeing old coaches and meeting alumni that started the tradition before I came along,” Brown said. ” I know Coach Ozella loves having us around. It’s good for the current players. I can go around and talk to them and just be there for them.”

A Hart High School alumnus pitches at the 2018 Hart Baseball Team Preview and Alumni Game in Newhall on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2017. Ryan Painter/The Signal.

Former Phillies outfielder Steve Susdorf, who also won a national championship with Fresno State, did play in the game and rocketed a single up the middle in the final inning.

“It’s always cool seeing the turnout for this event,” Susdorf said. “You get to kind of check in and see how the program is doing and that’s always great, too.”

Hart, which already has four players on its current roster signed to NCAA Division 1 programs in Cole Roederer (UCLA), Bryce Collins (Arizona), Cody Jefferis (University of San Diego) and Josh Cerpa (CSU Northridge) opens its season on Feb. 24 at Poly of Sun Valley in the Easton Tournament.

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