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Player of the Decade: Carmelo Hernandez developed into area's premier catcher
Player of the Decade

Player of the Decade: Carmelo Hernandez developed into area's premier catcher

The catcher is a foundational position on a baseball team.

Much like the center on a football team or a point guard on a basketball team, the catcher is involved in just about every play, though their impact can often be overlooked when compared to the pitcher or quarterback.

Carmelo Hernandez was a catcher, though he wasn't really overlooked. He made that much of an impact on the game during his days at Nipomo High. 

Hernandez, a 2019 graduate, put together a remarkable career in Nipomo. 

The one they called 'Tugboat' growing up racked up over 100 total hits during his prep career with the Titans. 

For his career, Hernandez hit .380 with 103 total hits, 64 RBIs, 30 doubles and four home runs. During his final season with the Titans, Hernandez threw out seven of the 10 batters who ran on him.

In that final year, Hernandez hit .462 with 36 hits, 31 RBIs, 11 doubles and four home runs. As a junior, Hernandez hit .440 with 38 hits, 17 RBIs, 11 doubles and three triples. He had six doubles as a sophomore and notched 17 hits as a freshman.

Hernandez is the next nominee for Player of the Decade.

The former Titan had a long run as one of the top baseball players in the area. He was called Tugboat because he carried his diaper bag with him wherever he went as a toddler. He was a national Pitch, Hit and Run champion in 2014, playing in the competition at the All-Star Game at Target Field in Minnesota as a 12-year-old.

As a Little Leaguer, Hernandez hit .765 during an entire season. He hit his first home run on a Little League field, a ball that went 210 feet, when he was 8. He hit 55 home runs in Little League and he hit four home runs in one game.

“I like throwing people out,” Hernandez once said as a youngster. 

No doubt.

Hernandez went on to a sparkling career at the high school level, hitting well over .400 in back-to-back seasons. And, remember, that's invaluable offensive production from a catcher, a position where defense is prioritized and any offense is considered icing on the cake.

Hernandez was named co-MVP of the Ocean League with teammate Ricard Rodriguez in 2019 as the Titans split the league title with Mission Prep. Hernandez was named the All-Area Utility Player of the Year then. 

Hernandez was also a standout on the Nipomo High football team and played basketball at NHS.

The Times is polling current and former coaches to develop its list of nominees for Player of the Decade. A tournament-style voting contest will then be held to determine the Player of the Decade. Readers will be able to vote online at santamariatimes.com; lompocrecord.com and syvnews.com. Players from Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County whose final seasons where between 2010 and 2020 are eligible.

Hernandez is the third nominee from Nipomo High, joining the McNeil brothers, Jeff and Ryan. The other nominees announced so far are Dylan Maiden, of Cabrillo; Lucas Martin, a left-hander from Lompoc; Pioneer Valley grad Chad De La Guerra; former Santa Maria High star Trevor Garcia; Santa Ynez grads Tommy Rowan and Zach Torra; Righetti grad Troy Prober and former Arroyo Grande stars Kyle Raubinger and Ryan Teixeira.

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