Marcos Breton

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Marcos Breton: Ex-Aggie's heroics with Cardinals inspire after rise from humble roots

Published: Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 7:45 pm

I was slogging through a column on how the Sacramento City Council can't be trusted to spend sales tax money it wants voters to approve in November when my attention was happily diverted.

A man named Daniel Descalso, a former UC Davis athlete, lifted my spirits on Friday night as the St. Louis Cardinals second baseman laced the key hit in a historic game that wouldn't have been won without the heroics of an old Aggie.

Descalso's ninth-inning single drove in two runs to tie a divisional playoff game against the favored Washington Nationals – a game the Cards would win 9-7 after trailing 6-0.

In more than a century of major league baseball, it was the biggest comeback in a do-or-die game in postseason history.

What a moment and what an addition to a wonderful local tradition.

Descalso is the latest in a legacy of kids who have risen from local sandlots and ballparks with metal benches to pursue the dream of the World Series. Dusty Baker, the king of Sacramento's baseball royalty and the Cincinnati Reds manager, had his heart broken when the Giants eliminated his team last week – but won a World Series as a player with the Los Angeles Dodgers. From the early 20th century to now, men named Bob Forsch, Larry Bowa, Derrick Lee, Steve Sax, Dustin Pedroia, Jermaine Dye, Ernie Bonham, Greg Vaughn, Fernando Vina and many others have left home to win the big prize – or came up just short.

This history is a source of deep local pride, though it's true that relatively few kids have the natural ability to hit the curveball or throw one with big-league precision. It's regrettable that kids not blessed with Descalso's athletic talents face depressed educational and employment opportunities in Sacramento.

What's also regrettable is the utter lack of ability by elected officials such as the Sacramento City Council to do anything about it.

One of the joys of baseball is the timeless ethic of individual achievement for the betterment of the team. We grow this spirit in Sacramento sandlots, but where is it when it comes time to promote economic opportunities for the kids watching Descalso on Friday?

At least for me, it made his exploits all the more poignant.

Descalso had three massive hits and drove in three of the Cardinals' nine runs in an epic game.

His eighth-inning home run kept the Cardinals' hopes alive when a packed stadium in Washington, D.C., seemed to be celebrating a Nationals win before Descalso and his teammates had their final say.

As usual, the folks in Washington were ignorant of the forces looming outside the Beltway.

Only 25, Descalso was an economics major at Davis and is – in the opinion of many – the best player in school history, though hardly a behemoth at 5-10, 190 pounds.

I looked up Descalso's old profile on the UC Davis athletics website and there he is: a game face like a clenched fist and a dirty Aggies uniform that Descalso abused by constantly flinging himself into every base and opportunity.

No Aggie player was ever drafted higher than Descalso when the Cardinals plucked him off the Davis campus in June 2007 as the 112th player selected in the Major League Baseball first year player draft.

"He's worked hard to get to where he is now and I think he's ready to take that next step," his Davis coach, Rex Peters, said at the time.

The old baseball coach knew what he was talking about. Today, Descalso and his Cardinals will do battle with the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series.

Descalso is on baseball's biggest stage at AT&T Park in San Francisco – 72.2 miles down Interstate 80 from Dobbins Stadium on the UC Davis campus.

Even if you don't follow baseball, Descalso's story is inspirational – the gritty kid from the humble baseball program making history in the big leagues.

It's also a welcome break from more dismal local news.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton, news columnist

Marcos Breton

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I'm supposed to connect the dots on issues, people and relationships that cause things to happen or prevent them from happening in our region. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a voter in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, I have voted for Barry Bonds - twice. I am a native of Northern California. I am the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Phone: 916-321-1096
Twitter: @MarcosBreton

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