The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Big league dreams from City College

City College Panthers shortstop Jorge Viña (left) and out fielder Jared James both have relatives who play major league ball

For Sacramento City College Panthers baseball players Jorge Viña and Jared James, Union Stadium holds the weight of family history and dreams of a future in Major League Baseball.

Viña, a sophomore shortstop from Elk Grove High School, is the nephew of major league second baseman Fernando Viña, who also played for the Panthers in 1989. The elder Viña left City College to play professional baseball from 1993 to 2004, with long stints on the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals. Fernando Viña made the All-Star team in 1998, and earned Gold Glove Awards in 2001 and 2002. Currently, he provides analysis and commentary for Oakland Athletics games on Comcast SportsNet California.

James, the freshman outfielder from C.K. McClatchy High School, is the son of Dion James. Dion James was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers out of McClatchy in 1983, and played professionally until 1996. He was named the Milwaukee Brewers Rookie of the Year in 1984 and finished his career with a stint on the New York Yankees.

Coach Derek Sullivan praised the younger James for his performance in the first half of this season.

“He’s been very good, one of our top producers,” Sullivan said. “He’s hit third or fourth in our lineup, which is one of those spots where you put one of your most productive players. He has been a very good offensive player for us.” To date, James is batting .365 with 31 hits, 11 runs, and 11 runs batted in, including five doubles and two triples.

One of Jared James’s earliest MLB memories comes from the days when his father Dion played in New York. “He was with the Yankees, over at Yankee Stadium, the old one,” James recalled.

“We traveled wherever he went. I remember watching some games. I remember he actually got me into the dugout, I said hello to everybody. It was amazing.”

One particular formative experience now helps James maintain a balanced perspective now on the ups and downs of baseball. When Dion James once faced the ire of disappointed Yankees fans, he taught his sons to take criticism and praise equally.

“My older brother, Justin, he starts getting on him like he’s a fan,” Jared recalled. “So my dad goes, ‘Man, this is crazy. I go out to the field; I get crap from the fans. I come home, and I get stuff from my little son.”

At that moment Jared understood that, “anybody can look good when they’re doing good, but when you’re doing bad, people pay attention and react to it.” To represent any team with dignity,

James said, “You want to stand neutral on both grounds because you don’t want to act like a sore winner or a sore loser.” Jared’s older brother, Justin James, also played for the City College Panthers and was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2011. Justin James recently finished up a stint in the minors playing in the Gulf Coast League, and is currently looking to sign with a new team.

Sullivan explained the challenge facing promising City College players with big league dreams. For newcomers to the Big 8 Conference, Sullivan said, “the game is faster, and there are fewer margins for error.”

The increased competition makes it tough for some prospects coming out of high school because, according to Sullivan, “Everything gets magnified: any errors, or inefficiencies in a swing, or how you throw the baseball, or any lack of strikes [for a pitcher], it compounds more.”
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Coach Sullivan also praised Viña’s performance this season. “He’s played at shortstop pretty much every game for us,” Sullivan said. “And he’s a defensive player, very consistent. That’s what you need at that position.”

Sullivan emphasized Viña’s role in nine of the Panthers’ twelve double plays to date.

“He’s starting them and finishing them,” Sullivan said Viña says he has special childhood memories of his uncle’s career.

“I was probably five or six, [working as a] bat boy,” Viña recalled with a smile, “[Fernando] was playing with the Brewers, and I [served as bat boy] a lot when he was with the Cardinals. I remember a lot of it with the Cardinals because I was a little older. It was a lot of fun.”

Growing up watching his uncle’s career inspired Viña’s decision to play infield.

“He was a great infielder,” Viña said, “I look up to him; I want to do what he accomplished. Being an infielder is in my background; I don’t see me playing anywhere else.”

It helps to have a family member with big league experience. These days Viña says he maintains perspective by consulting with his uncle for advice.

“He’s been through it all,” Viña said. “He tells me, ‘You’ve got to keep digging, you can’t stop working. Keep your head up. Whatever you’ve got to do, you’ve got to keep grinding, staying in the cages as long as you can.’”

Viña says he plays by his uncle’s baseball philosophy, “In the end, no regrets, know you worked hard.”

Both James and Viña want to keep playing baseball for as long as possible, perhaps at a Division I school before turning professional. Viña says he’s interested in playing for the Oregon Ducks in Eugene, while James has thought about taking his game to Westwood to play for the UCLA Bruins.

According to Sullivan, the path to success starts on the practice field and in the batting cages. City College has kept its reputation for producing major league ballplayers by focusing on thorough preparation.

“It’s about getting our guys to be as consistent as possible, and that’s what excellence is,” Sullivan said. “It’s not [about] some freak of nature talent, it’s about playing well over and over again, every single day.”

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