It’s not every day two athletes who went to high school together in Riverside end up being on Major League baseball teams, let alone the two teams competing against each other in the World Series.
This year, Austin Barnes, catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Jake Marisnick, center fielder on the Houston Astros, both competed on the most renowned baseball championship in the world.
Both Barnes and Marisnick played together for two years when they went to Riverside Polytechnic High School. Although Marisnick has not been participating in the World Series because of a thumb injury, Barnes was in the starting lineup.
Gary Voelker, former Polytechnic High School baseball coach and teacher, coached Barnes and Marisnick and said while they both have the persona needed to make it to the big leagues, the two have very different personalities.
“Austin is intense in everything he does. He also used to avoid every class I ever taught,” Voelker said. “Jake’s approach was ‘I’m just happy to be here, but I know I have to work hard.’ Plus, he took my classes. But they both worked and battled hard.”
Brad Pounders, former first and third baseman on the San Diego Padres, echoed Voelker’s opinion of Barnes having an intense personality.
“He’s a fierce competitor and what I call a ‘baseball lifer,’ ‘baseball grinder,’” Pounders said. He knows how to play the game hard and is very aggressive at everything he does.”
Pounders said Barnes’ work ethic was identical in both high school and the MLB.
“His mannerisms, hitting approach and baseball IQ are all similar to the way to he was in high school,” Pounders said.
Although Pounders did not coach Marisnick at Polytechnic High School, he did coach him when he was around 12 or 13 years old.
“My son (Brooks) played with Jake his freshman year,” Pounders said. “Jake and Brooks were freshman on the Poly team and Austin was a sophomore. My son is on the Angels now. It’s impressive to see all three of them in the major league.”
Although the two were close in statistics, Voelker said they had contrasting traits as well.
“When Jake came on the scene, Austin was a seasoned veteran who played with a powerful team his freshman year. Jake, as a stumbling freshman, was trying to fit in but they complemented each other,” Voelker said.
Voelker also said despite the athletes being close in age, he viewed both Barnes and Marisnick as players from different time periods.
“Even though there was one year between them in school, Austin was the last holdout of a great era and Jake was the shining star of a new era,” Voelker said.
For baseball fans at California Baptist University, knowing there are players who come from the same city as their university brings a sense of pride and added even more excitement to this seasons’ World Series.
Kyle Oyama, junior business administration major and infielder on the CBU baseball team, said he was inspired by MLB players who have their roots in Riverside.
“It’s awesome to see someone who went to high school right down the street be playing on the biggest stage in baseball,” Oyama said.
As a Dodgers fan, Oyama said knowing where Barnes came from is encouraging.
“Seeing his success only makes me work harder at my own craft,” Oyama said.
No matter what team students favored to win the World Series, it is motivating to see World Series athletes who are from Riverside.