(photo by Morgan Genser)

WEST L.A. — Connections are everything when it comes to recruiting ball players.

West Los Angeles College’s Assistant Coach Kevin Brockway appears to have worked his connections to local baseball talent to perfection as he’s helped successfully recruit a bevy of Santa Monica High School players to play at the junior college next year.

“It helped,” Brockway said of his connection to Samohi having coached the team for three seasons ending in 2007. “They know what I’m about from when I was over there at Samo.”

Brockway, a familar face at area baseball diamonds, was instrumental in luring pitcher Drew Hammond, catcher Colter Johnson, shortstop Ricky Gomez, third baseman Josh Huerta and outfielder Vince Lawrence to play for West.

He said that it didn’t hurt that West L.A. pitcher Mario Gallardo was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, proving that junior college players have a shot at catching the eyes of pro scouts. Gallardo was taken in the 44th round earlier this week.

As for his technique in swaying prospects to play for his squad, Brockway kept it simple.

“We just told them how much we wanted to have them come to West L.A.,” he said. “They don’t want to travel, that’s why they are coming to West.”

Some had other places to go, but Brockway said that the proximity to the campus and familiarity with one of the team’s coaches helped clinch the deal.

Lawrence, who was a second team All Ocean League selection this year, said that he’d been talking to Brockway all year about the possibility of attending West and decided it was a good fit.

“I wasn’t too sure on what I wanted to do,” Lawrence said of the process. “I figured it couldn’t hurt so I said what the hell.”

As for playing time, Lawrence said he doesn’t expect any favors. He knows full well that it is never given only earned.

“Brockway said I’d have to get a feel for it at first,” Lawrence said of college ball. “As a new player I’m going to have to prove myself on a whole new level.

“We’ll see when the whole team comes together where I rank.”

The five players from Samohi will join 15 others in West’s 2009 recruiting class. Brockway said he expects this crop of players to improve the team’s lot in 2010. The team was 14-28 this season playing in the Western State Conference, a record Brockway hopes will improve as the team continues to build a foundation.

Brockway’s Santa Monica connections run deep. Not only did he coach Samohi to the CIF title game in 2007, he also was the last baseball coach at Santa Monica College. SMC eliminated its baseball program in 1994.

St. Monica’s Anthony Yoshinaga, a catcher, is also considering attending West. Yoshinaga, who has been accepted at Arizona State, said at the end of the season that he wasn’t sure how far he wanted to chase his baseball dreams.

“I want to try to walk-on at ASU, but I’m not sure what I want to do right now,” Yoshinaga said following the team’s first round playoff loss. “West L.A. is still a possibility.

“My dad and I have a lot of talking to do.”

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