Vaquero baseball has been rolling over the competition these days, winning 10 straight games this season. A large part of that success is due to premier second baseman John Manuel.
Part of the team’s good fortunes may stem from Manuel’s pre-game ritual. No, he doesn’t gulp down a Western Chicken Sandwich Combo from Carl’s Jr. or listen to rock music before games, both of which he enjoys. He prepares by becoming very quiet and still.
“I put my head down and focus,” he said. “I close my eyes and imagine what’s going to happen on the field.”
This focus worked wonders for him at John H. Francis Polytechnic High. After closing his eyes and envisioning what he wanted to accomplish on the diamond, Manuel went out and batted above .390 en route to leading the team to the City Division 4-A Championships his senior year.
Two years later, sophomore Manuel, again, closes his eyes before each game and imagines what his team is capable of accomplishing this season. This time it is with coach Jon Strauss and the GCC baseball squad, which is currently ranked 8th in the state.
“He leads by example,” said Strauss of Manuel, 19. “He’s quiet, but he’s very intense. We need guys to get it done, and he does just that.”
Manuel has very good hands as a hitter, according to Strauss, which explains his offensive stats this year: 12 RBI’s, 11 runs, five doubles, and a team-leading .429 before Thursday’s Western State Conference opener at Bakersfield.
“Ultimately, we want to go out to Fresno and play for the championships,” said Manuel. “The main goal right now is to go out and win our conference.”
Among his accolades, Manuel achieved All-League honors his last three years in high school, while playing in the Bernie Milligan All-Star Game his senior year. Last year at GCC, he earned Honorable Mention Honors and was selected to the California JC All-Star Game.
Picking up his first bat and set of gloves at the age of 4, Manuel has not stopped growing ever since, both athletically and intellectually.
“Manuel is an intelligent guy,” said Strauss. “He strives for perfection.”
Mimicking his game on the field, his academic prowess in the classroom is also impressive. He carries 14 units while maintaining a solid 3.02 overall GPA. A possible sports medicine major, Manuel plans to transfer to a Division 1 school and continue playing baseball competitively.
But for now, Manuel can still be seen at Stengel Field either calmly focusing or swinging at baseballs. He says he wants to “go out there, stay healthy, try to produce, and try to be a factor for the team to win.”