LOS ANGELES – Danny Espinosa was 15 years old in 2002 when he and his father, Dan, made a bet.
They couldn’t be in a more perfect place to do such a thing. Las Vegas. It was the site of a club baseball tournament Espinosa was playing in on a team coached by his dad.
As Espinosa recalls, if their team lost in the semifinals, he and his father would take a redeye back to Orange County in order to be able to make it to the World Series between the Angels and Giants.
They won and lost at the same time.
“We won (the tournament) but we missed the World Series,” said Espinosa with a grin. His chance, as a 15-year-old, to see the Angels capture their first World Series in franchise history never happened.
Aside from that moment in history, Espinosa didn’t miss out on many Angels games. His family has been longtime season ticket holders since well before the 26-year-old was born. Even though he grew up liking the Dodgers more than the team further south on the 5 freeway, he eventually came around and joined in with the family rooting for the team in Anaheim.
“Tim Salmon, Gary DiSarcina – I watched everybody coming up,” said the Washington Nationals middle infielder, who’s back home with his team in town to play the Dodgers.
There were plenty of fond memories for Espinosa growing up in Southern California.
He made some of his own memories at Mater Dei High School where he led his team to a CIF championship in 2005 at Angel Stadium – a feat the current club is trying to duplicate this season.
The 2013 edition of the Monarchs finished the regular season 24-2 and are the No. 1 seed in the CIF Southern Section Division I playoff pairings, featuring a lineup some have dubbed a “Murderer’s Row” of high school baseball.
“They’re pretty good huh?” Espinosa, a proud alum, said beaming.
He knows all too well what it takes to win CIF hardware. He and his teammates were in a much different position than the school’s current squad. In 2005 they defeated top-seed Riverside Poly, 9-3, to capture the school’s first CIF championship in 25 years.
Still, he knows what this bunch can’t afford to do regardless of the success they enjoyed during the regular season.
“I would just say (to the team), especially in the playoffs, don’t overlook any opponent,” Espinosa said, “and just grind and make sure you bury every single opponent you play.”
He definitely didn’t overlook any opponents during his time with the Monarchs or playing club ball. Remember that whole World Series story?