Christopher trio realizes dream

“Brutal.” “Terrible.” “Long and a lot of uncertainty.” Those are the words Andrew Kachel, Garret Santos and Jack Tomlinson used to describe the recruiting process. Through it all, the Christopher High baseball players persevered to earn scholarships to play at the four-year level. The trio was part of a ceremony at school Wednesday to confirm their signings on National Letter of Intent Signing Day. 

In a poignant event filled with laughs and plenty of emotion, the three players expressed thanks and gratitude to friends and family members for helping them to get to this point. Kachel has signed with Fresno State, Santos with Fresno Pacific and Tomlinson at the University of California at San Diego. 

“I think about the amount of people that has actually been there for you throughout the whole journey,” Kachel said. “You don’t make yourself—it’s the people who you surround yourself with—the coaches and family members—that make you.”

“I had so many people supporting me, and the best memory is persevering no matter how much I got kicked down,” said Tomlinson, an outfielder who just committed to UCSD last weekend. Nothing came easy.”

Tomlinson’s dad, Kevin, retold a story during the event that spoke to his son’s grit and determination. Jack was 7 years old and playing for a Morgan Hill Pony team that had just been eliminated in the playoffs. After a game, Jack went up to his dad and said, “Dad, I don’t want to suck anymore.”

“I told him he didn’t have to worry about it and that it was time to go to work,” said Kevin, who then put his hand on Jack’s shoulders and said, ‘I just want to tell you, you don’t suck anymore.”

The comments drew laughter from those in attendance, a light-hearted moment that belied the intensity the three players show every time they take the field. College coaches notice when players are competing as if their livelihood depends on it, and from that perspective, the Christopher seniors check off all the boxes when it comes to the intangibles. 

“The Fresno Pacific coaches said I played hard, was really aggressive and wasn’t afraid of the pressures of playing in a camp in front of college coaches, that it didn’t affect me,” said Santos, who played right field for the Cougars last season but is projected to play his preferred position of second base in college. “They look for all the physical stuff, to be able to hit the ball hard and be fast.”

The years of hard work paid off for the players, especially Santos, who envisioned this moment for a long time. 

“I’ve been waiting for this my whole life, since forever,” he said. “So there is a lot of excitement just knowing all the hard work paid off.”

Kachel caught the eye of the Fresno State coaches when they were in attendance at one of the Cougars’ Central Coast Section playoff games last spring. The one noticeable part in all this? 

“They were not there to look at me,” said Kachel, a shortstop who also pitched last season. “They didn’t know who my name was at that point. But I stood out to them, and now I’m here. They said they liked my drive and poise and the way I play the game. That I played with passion—that is the first thing they noticed.”

Santos has a similar recruiting path in that Fresno Pacific didn’t start pursuing him until he went to one of their baseball camps in September. This was after Santos had visited the school on a whim as he was traveling with his friend Travis Romero, whose sister Haley attends Fresno Pacific. 

“It was a coincidence how I came upon Fresno Pacific,” he said. “We stopped by and I happened to like the school, I went to a baseball camp later and it all clicked from there.”

Tomlinson got noticed playing for Trosky Baseball in the Perfect Game World Series, a prestigious annual showcase event in July. The recruiting process started from there, eventually leading to earning a scholarship from UCSD. All three players credited a huge support system for helping them develop and mature into solid baseball players. Santos’ dad, Bob, has coached his son and Kachel since they started playing the game 10 years ago. 

How instrumental was Bob’s impact? As Kachel said his comments, he broke down at the end talking about how much Bob invested in him and Garret. 

“All of the hours in the cage coach Bob put in to break down my swing and getting me to a point where I knew what to do in all situations is something I’ll always remember,” said Kachel, who also got emotional when talking about his dad, Mike, who worked a lot of  overtime to make sure his son had all of the equipment necessary to play and to provide everything Andrew needed to set him up to be successful. 

Tomlinson credited Nate Trosky for being a premier coach and baseball role model.

“He’s probably been the biggest influence of my baseball life,” Tomlinson said. “He is such a high level teacher and saw potential in me when a lot of people didn’t.”

When Santos was competing at the Fresno Pacific camp, he didn’t flinch. Knowing he wanted to play at the university, Santos delivered. 

“There were 50 other kids at the camp and I did my best to stand out,” Santos said. “I just did my thing.”

Tomlinson spoke about his grandma, Betty Falck, who died two years ago and was always one of his biggest fans. 

“My grandma was very important to me and the whole family,” Tomlinson said. “Losing her was tough because I had never met someone who loved life so much and saw everything from the bright side such as her. She is no longer with us today, but I hope I’m making her proud.”

Proud indeed.