Harlingen South made the playoffs in District 32-6A this season with a veteran-laden roster.
But the Hawks have a bright future ahead with shortstop Chase Roberts commanding the infield. He was voted first team all-district by the 32-6A coaches and he is the Valley Morning Star’s 2019 All-STAR Baseball Newcomer of the Year.
“It’s a great feeling,” Roberts said. “My dad always told me to work hard, and what you put in is what you get out at the end of the day. I’ve worked extremely hard for the rest of my life, and I’m just grateful.”
Hawks coach Chris Gracia said he was impressed by Roberts’ hitting prowess and raw potential. In 29 games, Roberts hit .365 with 17 hits, three doubles and a triple. He also scored 16 runs and posted 17 RBIs.
“At the beginning of the year we saw he was hitting line drives in BP, and we had to bring him up,” Harlingen South coach Chris Gracia said. “I’m not real big on having freshmen on the varsity level, but he earned his way there.”
Gracia and the Harlingen South staff worked with Roberts to refine his footwork and agility, and also on becoming a more assertive communicator in the infield.
“Shortstop is not his natural position, but we saw him as a fit there,” Gracia said. “We got him to learn the little intricacies of the position, and to try to be a little bit more vocal and to be a leader for the team. The shortstop’s got to be the leader for the defense communication-wise. So we saw a big improvement in that, he came out of his shell as the year went on, and we’re excited to see what he’s going to do (next).”
Though Roberts became more comfortable with more reps, his transition to the varsity level came with a steep learning curve. He said the senior leaders on the team embraced him, ensuring they would have his back after an error or poor at-bat.
“At the beginning of the season I struggled a bit,” Roberts said. “It was a lot (of pressure) coming into the program, but there was a lot of leadership on the team that picked me up when I was down, and I’m just glad we’re going to continue to have more leadership coming back this next season. Hopefully we can make the playoffs again, because making it (after a five-year drought) was a great feeling coming into it as a freshman.”
While constant turnover is a fact of life at the high school level, Gracia is confident that Roberts can be a building block for a new-look Hawks squad to contend for a playoff spot again next season, even with the loss of seniors like Nick Muniz and Mando Martinez.
“He’s going to be one of those guys who leads by example,” Gracia said. “He tries to get more and more guys out to the workouts. When they see him as a freshman getting these awards and still continuing to work hard, that’s going to click. That’s what we need to do, we need to keep working, keep lifting. With the hard work and dedication he has, the sky’s the limit for him.”