Whether it’s playing for his country on Team USA, selecting a college to attend or being the starting shortstop at San Juan Capistrano (Calif.) JSerra for four years, Chase Strumpf doesn’t seem to be fazed by pressure. It’s as if he’s immune or completely oblivious.
Need a big play on defense? Expect Strumpf to come up with a diving stop and throw. Need a clutch hit? Don’t be surprised when he hits a ball in the gap like he did earlier this season when a first-inning three-spot carried the Lions to a win at Angel Stadium.
“This was my third year [playing at Angel Stadium],” Strumpf said. “You just get to get a little taste of what the big leaguers get. It’s hard getting here and controlling your emotions. It’s really exciting. But once the game starts, you just calm down and everything comes to you and it’s real fun.
“That was just a great way to start off the game and I guess the momentum just kept going from there.”
Or Strumpf might just drive a ball out of the ballpark as he did Tuesday at St. John Bosco, turning a 1-0 nail biter into a much more comfortable, 3-0, margin.
He does it all in the middle of the lineup and he’s one of the top shortstops in California, yet being the shortstop on the current JSerra team might be an even bigger validation of his talent. With potential top 10 prospect Royce Lewis, a UC Irvine commit, and Baylor signee Davis Wendzel, the Lions have three potential collegiate shortstops. You can also throw in Brady Shockey, who plays outfield for the Lions, but also could end up playing on the left side of the infield in college.
JSerra's lineup is absolutely loaded and Strumpf is the team’s senior lynchpin in the middle of it. He signed with UCLA after committing when he was still in middle school.
“UCLA has always been one of my top schools I’ve been looking at, even in middle school because I’d be going to camps every winter,” Strumpf said. “I knew they were a baseball powerhouse. [My family and I] just really liked the school and decided to commit. It was an early commit, but it was definitely the right decision.”
With plenty of at-bats against high-end high school competition and his experience winning tournament MVP at the 2013 Pan American championship with the 15U National Team, the Bruins think Strumpf may be able to step in and play right away.
“Chase is one of the best hitters in Southern California,” UCLA head coach John Savage said in a statement after Strumpf signed. “Chase has made a big impact throughout his high school career at JSerra both with the glove and the bat. Along with Ryan Kreidler, these two physical infielders are very capable of playing major roles as freshmen in the Pac-12 right away.”
“Personal stats have never been my thing. Team wins — that’s really my thing. I just came about winning. Everyone having fun,” Strumpf said. “Season goals are definitely to win league two years in a row, CIF if not. I’m tying to do whatever I can to help the team out. I’m probably not going to see some of these kids for a while once I go to college, so I’m just trying to enjoy every minute of it.”
Then and only then will Strumpf turn his attention to the pressure of the MLB draft and a potential decision to stick with his college commitment or to start his professional career.
“Obviously, that’s every kid’s dream, but you never know what happens down the line,” Strumpf said of professional baseball. “I’m just trying to live up my senior year as much as I can. I’m not planning anything right now, so we’ll just see what happens and whatever happens, happens. Life goes on.”