Even though Poway High School won the Palomar League and the CIF Div. 1 title in baseball, the media and coaches bestowed the honor of Player of the Year to Torrey Pines Falcons senior Kevin Vance.
The award was probably not that big a surprise to the goal-oriented Vance.
"Every year Coach (Head Coach Matt Chess) has us write our personal and team goals before the season starts," said Vance. "My goals were to stay consistent throughout the season, be Player of the Year and get drafted. I felt I was good enough."
Although a major league team did not draft Vance, two out three of the goals isn't bad. And neither was his team's performance this past season.
"Since we lost seven out of nine starters from the team that went to last years CIF Div. 1 finals, I had to step up and be one of the leaders and keep the team together," said Vance. We also surprised everyone who thought we would finish at the bottom of the Palomar League (Torrey Pines came in second)."
"In my 25 years of coaching, Kevin Vance, has the combination of baseball ability, and is also a solid kid," said Chess. "I've coached Kevin for four years and it was a joy working with him. It starts with the quality of a person and his commitment. He has the athletic and academic ability. Kevin is very humble and team centered. He is the first guy on and last one off the field. Kevin is a student of the game. He is very mature for 17 years old, but still has the kid in him to have fun."
Vance grew up in Solana Beach and his skills were honed by a little competitiveness with his brother.
"My dad Tom and my older brother Matt (4 years older) got me interested in baseball," said the University of Connecticut-bound Vance. "I watched my brother play and when I was 5 years old I started playing T-ball. My brother is my biggest role model. When I entered Torrey, Matt had already graduated and was entering Harvard. I have always strived to do as well as my brother."
Vance had a choice of four schools that were interested in him. He visited Brown, West Point, Connecticut, and Utah.
"It came down to either University of Utah or Connecticut," said Vance. "I picked U Conn, since it would be a good opportunity to play my first year; also to get away from Southern California for a while. I never lived where it snowed; also the strength of the conference; the Big East, and their program is on the rise. They have a good sports management program. My goal eventually is to coach baseball on the collegiate level."
Vance played shortstop and pitched this year for the Falcons. His stats were impressive, leading his team in hitting with a .452 average, with 27 RBI, 35 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .578. He also hit eight homeruns with 14 stolen bases out of 15 attempts. On the hill, Kevin was 6-2, with two complete games, 51 innings pitched, a 2.059 ERA, and he walked 17 and struck out 84 batters.
"My brother played third base for both Torrey and Harvard," said Vance. "I will probably do the same at Connecticut."
Vance also plays for the club and travel team West Coast Bulldogs 18U(18 and up).
"Up until this year, I was more of a thrower. This year I became a pitcher," said Vance. "I started to hit my spots. I took pitching lessons from Glen Godwin and Pat Edwards. I like playing the field. This way when I'm not pitching I can focus on hitting and I don't have to concentrate on what pitches to throw."
Vance's most memorable games this year were against Pt. Loma and Mira Mesa.
"The Pt. Loma game was my best, hitting-wise," said Vance. "I went four-for-four, with a single, double, and two home runs, with four RBI. And against Mira Mesa, it was a defining game for us to see how we stood against tougher competition. Even though in my sophomore and junior year we went to the semi-finals and the CIF finals, this year was the most gratifying. The chemistry and camaraderie of our team was the best I ever played on."
Like most athletes, Vance has some unique routines on game day.
"Before one game this year I ate four slices of pizza," said Vance, "and that game I hit two homeruns. I skipped that routine, but did it again and I hit two more homeruns.
Baseball is a huge part of Vance's life, but he also loves to surf the shortboard. Again, this summer he will work at the Del Mar beach, as an assistant Junior Lifeguard, teaching kids about water safety.
"At the next level, I have to improve my approach at the plate," said Vance, 'better eye; swing at better pitches; get stronger and faster, especially in my arm. My brother Matt pushes me. I use his Harvard Baseball Workout plan, with a combination of lifting and conditioning. He is instrumental in keeping me focused."