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A season without excuses for Diaz

Baseball: Diaz-McTague's comeback season, after suffering a broken ankle, results in a Santa Fe League MVP award.

May 29, 2011|By Andrew Shortall,

BURBANK — Coming into Hector Perez' 10th year at the helm of Bellarmine-Jefferson's baseball program, he'd cultivated five Santa Fe League MVPs. Each year Perez expects the league's MVP to be wearing a Guards uniform.

"It's always going to be a competition between us," Perez said. "The league MVP is in this school so we ask the team before the start of the season, 'Who is it going to be?' We motivate them to strive for that award."

After the 2011 baseball season, Perez is six for 11 now that Bell-Jeff's senior pitcher/shortstop Philip Diaz-McTague was crowned the Santa Fe League Player of the Year. It was an incredible comeback story, as Diaz-McTague sat out almost all of his junior campaign with a severely broken ankle.


"It was overwhelming when I heard I was named MVP," said Diaz-McTague, who propelled his team to a second-place finish in league and a spot in the CIF playoffs. "We all worked so hard this year and the work paid off. It was really rewarding."

Doctors told him he may never regain his range of mobility to where he'd be able to play sports again. Diaz-McTague took that as a challenge and rose to the occasion. It was impossible to keep him from practicing with his fellow Guards, even before he was given the clearance to start walking again.

"He was still working and doing drills without moving, sitting on a chair or on a bucket," Perez said. "He did everything he could without walking on it because the doctor told him not to. His hand-eye coordination and athleticism have always been there. There was no stopping him."

"I knew that I wanted to come back and every year it's my goal to get better in the offseason," Diaz-McTague said. "This season I took the most time I could and worked on every aspect of my game. I wanted to get better and I wasn't going to let an injury keep me from getting better or use my injury as an excuse for why I wasn't playing well."

Diaz-McTague never had to make an excuse for his play, either. He finished the season hitting .492 (30 for 61) with 27 runs scored, 15 RBIs, a home run and four stolen bases (on five attempts). His six doubles, three triples, on-base (.549) and slugging percentages (.738) were all team highs for the Guards. He was also one of Bell-Jeff's go-to pitchers, tossing a second-most 28 1/3 innings.

Not only did Diaz-McTague lead Bell-Jeff statistically, but emotionally as well.

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