In May, Glendale's Raymond S. Kellis High made an improbable run to the 5A state championship as a 13 seed.
On Tuesday, they were honored by another underdog, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta.
Peralta’s story is well documented. In 2011, he was a failed minor league pitcher who had to work at McDonald’s to earn money to pay for fuel to drive to Texas to play in an independent league.
These days, Peralta is hitting at the top of the D-backs lineup. In his last seven games, Peralta has a .448 batting average with three doubles, two home runs and six RBIs.
After batting practice on Tuesday, Peralta made his way upstairs at Chase Field to give the Kellis Cougars the state championship rings.
“I heard your guys' story,” said Peralta to the group of Kellis players, coaches, parents and school supporters. “I was thinking I used to be like you. Nobody knew about me. I’ve had to put in a lot of hard work, dedication and time. And it pays off.”
The Cougars took pictures with Peralta and got to show him their rings. Despite being the underdog, Kellis' head baseball coach Michael Deardoff never let his team think so.
“Everybody seems to think it’s unlikely,” said Deardoff. “Being a No. 13 seed seems unlikely but I knew the type of team we had.”
The idea to have Peralta present the championship rings to the Kellis team came from an unlikely place. Vince Castaldo is the coach of the Centennial baseball team. His wife Debbie is the D-backs' vice president of Corporate and Community Impact.
“This year all the early predictions were the big schools were supposed to win the 5A state championship,” said Debbie. “It reminded me of David’s journey to the big leagues.”
Kellis beat Centennial 14-2 to start a nine-game run all the way to the state championship. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So was having a big leaguer present them their state championship rings.
“Still not a day goes by where I don’t think, ‘Man, we actually got to do that,'” said Nate Young, Kellis’ catcher. “This is pretty dang cool too.”
“I like how he (Peralta) is always having fun, talking to everybody, doing his best to get everybody involved,” said A.J. Salazar, Kellis' pitcher and shortstop. “It just makes the game fun for everybody."
This was Kellis’ first baseball state championship. The Cougars had to win a play-in game just to get into the state playoffs. The school may once again hoist the championship trophy but the 2017 squad will be a team that school won’t soon forget.Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app
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