Senior pitcher Chris Moreno stood in the dugout with his Hart High School baseball teammates watching the alumni game, and caught a glimpse into a possible future if he dedicates himself like the many alumni who played for the storied baseball program and went on to play at higher levels in college and professional sports.
The Hart baseball alumni game last week showcased the varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams for the upcoming season, but much of the focus was on Hart Dugout Club Wall of Fame inductee Ryan Haag.
Haag was a left-handed second baseman who helped lead the Indians to a 1992 Division 2 CIF championship season. After that, he would play for Fresno State and garnered the attention of Major League Baseball.
In the 2004 MLB draft, Haag was drafted in the 16th round by the New York Yankees. His professional baseball career continued a Hart legacy of producing college and professional athletes.
Haag was highlighted for his contribution to Hart’s program and inducted to the Wall of Fame for his work, and had his family in attendance to celebrate his honor.
He credited Hart baseball head coach Jim Ozella for training him.
“I have a lot of respect for Ozella, what he’s doing, the man he is, his integrity and the group of kids he’s got for this season,” Haag said.
Haag reflected on his athletic journey and left advice for the baseball players about to begin their season.
“I wasn’t recruited anywhere in college and I kept working hard, I walked on and the next thing I know, four years later, I’m getting drafted by the Yankees and I wasn’t even a college recruit out of high school,” Haag said. “My advice for the players would be to enjoy the moment, work hard every day, play to win, play for your teammates, play for your school — don’t play for yourself.”
Ozella said Hart has a proud tradition of producing collegiate and professional athletes. The baseball program is community-based, and students are recruited from the neighborhood.
Ozella added the alumni game shows how important the Hart sports programs and community are to the alumni, who have come back from their careers and businesses to show the high school players what their future can be.
“Kids from the neighborhood play for us, and it’s important to teach our kids that there’s a past, present, and future for them,” Ozella said.
Jack Ralston, who led the Indians to a Foothill League title in 2014, would move on to play for the University of California, Los Angeles, in a storied collegiate career. Additionally, Ralston would be drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019.
Ralston said Ozella instilled discipline to focus and played a significant role in his athletic career. He was excited to return to where it all started and see the new team in action.
Additionally, Ralston said players thinking about a collegiate baseball career should work hard and dedicate their time to the process; he warned that they should make sure they’re giving it their all and having fun.
“I think you should have fun, be a good teammate, be a good friend and always put in the extra work,” Ralston said.
Hart baseball alum Matt Moore was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels baseball team during his college tenure, but was most famous for his football career, first with UCLA and Oregon State and then in the NFL. The quarterback was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and played for the Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs, compiling 7,597 passing yards over 12 seasons.
Moore served as backup for Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in 2020, as the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl title since 1970.
Moore said he felt the need to see Haag and Ozella, and play in the alumni game.
“I decided to participate because I played baseball in high school and I had a bunch of buddies playing. I came to support Ryan and see the high school honor him,” Moore said. “I wanted to be here, support him, have fun and see some old friends.”
Moore would say the high school years are fun but go fast, and advised the Hart players to give it their all this season and enjoy the process.
“I would just tell the team to work hard, have fun being on the team, listen to the coaches, but keep close to your buddies,” Moore said. “it’s fun being out here with guys that I played high school ball with and we’re still friends.”