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Orange's Endersby making a name for himself
The saying escapes James Endersby.
Baseball is everything to the kid, and there’s a popular idiom he abides by. He just can’t remember it at the moment. He begins a few that come to mind, only to stop mid-sentence: “That’s not it.”
Endersby’s offered a personal favorite: “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
“That’s a good one,” he said.
Endersby, Orange High’s third baseman and one of Orange County’s leading hitters, is an anomaly – his combination of size, speed and power isn’t often found in seniors, let alone 11th-graders.
His maturation is ongoing, but with a year and change remaining in his high school career, college recruiters are salivating.
“Whenever he steps to the plate,” Panthers coach Dennis Gerbasi said, “the only question is how hard and how far he’ll hit the ball. He’s never overmatched up there.”
Endersby, by his own admission, isn’t a “rah-rah” guy. He isn’t Orange’s inspirational speaker or its harshest critic, either.
He refers to himself rather as a lead-by-example guy – a player who lets his numbers do the talking. Gerbasi, in his second year with the program, said kids are bound to imitate the guy giving 110percent every time he sets foot on the field.
After searching high and low for the saying, Endersby finally finds it.
“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you will be successful.”
The baseball glove Endersby’s father put on his son’s hand 14 years ago began a lasting relationship with the sport.
The youngest of three children, Endersby started T-ball at an earlier age than most, doing so well, his league demanded he move up a division. He played for his first travel team at 9, then joined Orange County Premier the summer before his freshman year at Orange.
Though Endersby – whose father lettered two seasons at Long Beach State – played primarily on junior varsity in 2013, he appeared in three varsity games, going hitless in three at-bats. When Gerbasi took over last season, Endersby became his starting second baseman, a slick fielder and a dependable “execution guy” near the top of the batting order, the coach said.
“He got the job done where needed.”
Endersby hit .308 in 91 at-bats as a sophomore, driving in 10 runs and collecting double-digit extra-base hits. Orange and Ocean View tied for second place in the Golden West League last spring, and Orange’s season ended in the second round of the Division 3 playoffs.
Endersby, one of three sophomore regulars, received second-team all-league laurels at season’s end. “He absolutely took everything we told him last year to heart,” Gerbasi said.
Graduations in the offseason seeped Orange’s returning offense, and Gerbasi doubted Endersby could become a “big bat in the heart of the order.”
By summer’s end, however, Gerbasi said “Jimmy came back almost a completely different kid.”
Orange assistant coach Matt Allen is a former college ballplayer now in his second year coaching at his alma mater.
Endersby lived in the weight room this past summer, Allen said, often spending an hour or two several days a week lifting voluntarily. He began by doing less repetitions with more weight – a way to build mass, Endersby said. As the school year drew near, he did more repetitions with less weight – a way to develop a strong base.
Endersby, at 6-foot-2, added 15 pounds of muscle in three months, all while maintaining his speed and athleticism. Endersby spent the summer “getting the tangible things – size, power – you can see on the field,” Gerbasi said. “It was like he got stronger overnight.”
Allen doesn’t take credit for much, and Gerbasi takes credit for even less, but Endersby said both coaches helped “push me past my limits.”
“He’s gangly, but he’s one of the strongest, if not the strongest, guy on the team,” Allen said. “He’s fully dedicated to the weight room. He didn’t add too much mass, and even though he gained 15 pounds, he’s a lot faster than he was last year. That doesn’t just happen.”
Endersby’s teammate and longtime friend Chris Ayala has a theory.
“His sister is a bodybuilder,” he said, smiling. “I think he’s following in her footsteps, trying to keep up.”
Endersby exists to drive in runs.
Gerbasi believes if Orange gets a runner to second base by Endersby’s turn at the plate, his team will score. He can even sift through old box scores to prove his point. Endersby leads Orange County in runs batted in, and Orange will likely surpass last season’s total of 120 runs scored.
“He’s the hardest working kid by far,” Ayala said.
Though pitchers rarely throw him fastballs anymore, Endersby does not fool easily.
Gerbasi encourages Endersby to be aggressive early in the count, no matter the situation. Even so, Endersby is one of the toughest hitters in the county to strike out.
“He’s vicious at the plate,” Gerbasi said. “He doesn’t over-swing. It’s more like a controlled chaos. He gives himself the best chance to drive the ball.”
Endersby tends to keep his mouth open at the plate, saying it’s his way of staying relaxed.
He clears his mind in the batter’s box, thinking only of the oncoming pitch. He wants fielders to complete as many catches in a play as possible, meaning he would much rather hit the ball on the ground than hit it in the air. Endersby said he doesn’t get under too many pitches, and halfway through the season, he’s more likely to rope a double in the gap than mash a ball over the fence.
Allen teaches his hitters how to command the outer third of the plate, where high school pitchers live early in the count, he said. As a result, Endersby, a right-handed hitter, rarely pulls the ball. Most of his hits are to the right side of the field – a product of his “hand speed and strength,” Allen said.
Endersby jokes that coaches have told him he has “unnecessary power.”
“If you’re up there at the plate, feeling like you can’t get out, it’s like anything in life, you’re going to be successful,” Allen said. “If you’re up there, thinking that it’ll be a stroke of luck if you succeed, then you’re going to fail. You have to have quiet confidence in you, and that’s what James has.”
Endersby, 17, is surrounded by Division I experience.
Gerbasi played at Cal State Fullerton in 2007. Allen, at Santa Ana College and later at Lewis and Clark College in 2009. Club coaches of Endersby’s played locally, also.
Gerbasi went as far as to say Endersby reminds him of a college ballplayer already. Allen called Endersby “an upgraded version of me in college.”
Those compliments are not lost on the kid.
“I try to be perfect at everything I do,” Endersby said. “I know it’s not possible, but I expect it out of myself.”
For the second consecutive year, Endersby – who moved from second to third base this season – will play for the Texas Rangers’ scout team this fall. He also previously played for O.C. Premier’s Junior Olympics team.
“If we had nine Jimmys on the team,” Gerbasi said, “we would win the Golden West League championship easily.”
College recruiters are popping up at Orange’s games, and Gerbasi said if they’re not looking at Endersby’s teammate Jared Sturgeon – a mountain of a starting pitcher – then they’re looking at the power hitter manning third base.
“I’m trying to get my name out there, but not get my name out there,” Endersby said. “My coaches say ‘The squeaky wheel always gets the oil,’ but I want to stay humble, block everything out of my head and just play my game.”
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