Royal baseball trio bring their Californian roots to the diamond.
Mathias Durie | The Clarion
As the Minnesota winter turns to spring, the infield at Hargis park starts to look like the Sunshine state. Not because of the weather, though. It’s because of the baseball team.
Senior infielders Logan Lisle, Jarad Watts and sophomore Esteban Velasco have all spent long periods of their lives in California. Lisle grew up in Concord, Calif., about 45 minutes east of the Bay Area. Velasco was born and raised in San Diego. Watts, though he grew up in Rochester, Minn., moved to La Quinta, Calif., about two hours east of Los Angeles, when he started high school.
Each has a unique story of their decision to depart the Land of 10,000 Celebrities in favor of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Watts credits Coach Brian Raabe for his decision. During Watts’ senior year of high school, he began receiving phone calls from Raabe every Monday night at 10 p.m., telling him all about Bethel and why he should come here.
“In the winter of senior year I made the decision to come to Bethel, mainly because of Raabe and what he had to say about baseball,” Watts said.
Lisle, too, credits coaches with inspiring him to come to Bethel, but not the baseball coaches. Lisle was contacted by the university’s football coaches, recruiting him for the team. Lisle committed to playing football, but after just one year of playing both football and baseball, he shifted his focus and played only baseball. With another year of eligibility remaining, he plans on returning to the gridiron in 2016.
Velasco’s largest influence in coming to Minnesota was his father. Velasco’s father encouraged him to go out of state for college, seeing a relocation as a chance for his son to mature and become more independent. He looked at schools in Michigan, Oregon, Texas and Minnesota. After making a recruiting video, Velasco received interest from Augsburg, Bethel, Hamline and St. Thomas and visited all four schools. He decided on Bethel with full support from his parents.
“The first time [my parents] ever saw me play [at Bethel] they told me, ‘Wow, son. You’re really lucky to be playing with these guys. They really care about you,’” Velasco said.
All three are mainstays in the Royal infield, playing significant innings in their conference championship season last year, and they’re back again with a winning combination of solid defense and consistent hitting.
“Everyone’s in it for each other so that’s pretty sweet.”
Each has compiled a batting average above .300 and have a combined .904 fielding percentage average, which has contributed to the second best overall team fielding percentage in the MIAC (.963).
Having lived in Minnesota for a few years, Lisle, Velasco and Watts can confirm that they would take the California weather over Minnesota’s any day. Regardless, all three appreciate everything the state and Bethel have to offer.
“Everyone’s in it for each other so that’s pretty sweet,” Lisle said.