The La Joya Palmview Lobos baseball team had a season to remember. With their first district, bi-district and area championships, Coach Manuel “Ricky” Garcia’s boys attained heights never before reached by any team in any sport at Palmview High School.
As the Lobos’ ace on the mound, Chris Rocha had as much to do with Palmview’s unprecedented success as anybody. The fact that he was recently named District 30-5A’s Pitcher of the Year is a testament to the fact that he is the best in the district bar none.
Selected as the district’s Coach of the Year himself, Garcia had high praises to sing of his star pitcher both on and off the mound.
“Chris is a great kid and a great leader,” said Garcia. “He is one of the best pitchers in the Valley, if not the best. He proved himself worthy of the selection by the other coaches in the district simply by the fact that he was a threat to win every time he took the mound. As a result I knew that he was going to get something big.”
Prior to his freshman year, Rocha was a catcher. However, once Garcia and his staff saw how strong his arm was, they moved him from behind the plate to third base and eventually to the mound.
“When he first came in we saw a tall, lanky kid and we felt that he’d have a lively arm,” explained Garcia. “We did try him out on the mound as a pitcher in his freshman year and while he looked pretty good, we put him at third base. That’s where we saw him throw hard from third base to first base so we started working with him more as a pitcher his sophomore year.”
Rocha came into his own as a pitcher his junior and senior years. His 19-6 record and 250 strikeouts over the past two years illustrate it was a good decision to move him from behind the plate onto the mound.
While Rocha was impressive all season against District 30-5A opponents, he was even more impressive in the playoffs.
“We knew going into the playoffs that we had something special in Rocha and that he could handle the job,” shared Garcia. “The first game against Del Rio (bi-district round), he pitched great. As a matter of fact, the Del Rio coaches told me after the game that they had never seen anybody like him. He displayed a lot of confidence and he took care of business.”
In the Area round best-of-three series against Pharr San-Juan Alamo, Rocha won the first game as a starter and the second game in relief. Never having pitched on only one day’s rest before, Rocha came into game No. 2 in the 10th inning and held the Bears scoreless until the Lobos won it in the bottom of the 16th.
Unfortunately for the Lobos, another great pitching performance by Rocha went to waste in the one game winner-take-all Regional Quarterfinal series against Laredo Alexander. Even though he only gave up one run in seven innings, that was one run more than the Lobos would score, bringing Palmview’s history making season to a sudden end.
In total this season, Rocha appeared in 14 games, winning 12 and losing two. He had 11 complete games, four shutouts, pitched 88 innings and posted an incredibly low ERA (earned run average) of 0.64.
Having been selected to the First Team All-District and All-Valley teams last year, Rocha is no stranger to post-season honors. However, receiving individual recognition is not at all what motivates him.
“It is definitely an honor to be named to those teams, but it’s just something extra,” shared Rocha. “When I pitch, I pitch for the team and I pitch to win. I’m not going out there to be named MVP or Pitcher of the Year. The awards are nice, but winning games is more important than winning awards.”
As for what lies ahead, Rocha will be playing baseball and studying criminal justice at Alvin Community College (ACC) in Alvin, Texas. He is hoping that after two years of playing for ACC he’ll be able to either transfer to a division one school or possibly be drafted by a major league team. Should his baseball career not work out, Rocha may either go into law enforcement or return to school to pursue a degree in kinesiology and eventually go into coaching.