Thu, Nov. 21

Dedication pays off for MUHS grad

Staff photo by Jared Dort

PAUL Vocca's .495 batting average helped him earn a scholar-ship to Glendale Commu-nity College.

He did that by making the weight room a daily destination. From there, he went from an average competitor on the field to one of the best baseball players to come through Mingus.

In his senior year, all Vocca did was set the record for single-season hits with 53 — eclipsing Mike Wilcox’s previous mark by one — and bat .495. He also tied Chris French’s record for doubles with 18.

That’s pretty impressive for a leadoff hitter.

He was a first-team selection for the Grand Canyon Region and the Arizona Republic’s all-state poll. That made him a desirable candidate for any Arizona junior college.

As it turned out, Glendale Community showed him the most interest. The visited with him and a few teammates after the Spring Classic, a tournament Mingus won during the regular season. It wasn’t soon after that they offered him a scholarship.

Glendale was Vocca’s main choice, and for a good reason. The Gauchos won the Region 1 title and Southwest District Championships in 2003.

“I wanted to play for a good club and Glendale is definitely it,” Vocca said.

Vocca has the option to transfer to a bigger college after this season, but starting off at a JUCO is typically a good start. Arizona is known for its competitiveness at that level, plus college and pro scouts are usual attendees.

Paul Lo Duca, the catcher for the Los Angels Dodgers, went to GCC for two years, then transferred to Arizona State University.

During Vocca’s stint on the MUHS varsity squad, his playing time was limited his junior year. It wasn’t until he was a senior that he made his presence known by hard work and determination.

He lifted weights with Bob Young, the head football coach and weight room instructor, everyday his junior and senior year. It was in that room above the gym where he discovered what it takes to be successful.

“Through all four years of high school, coach Young was the most helpful. He helped me with discipline and taught me not to give up or settle for anything less than the best,” Vocca said.

Adding strength helped him stay off the disabled list and it also added pop to his bat. Vocca had always been a solid contact hitter, but working out helped him drive the ball a lot further.

“Lifting was one of the most important things I’ve ever done,” Vocca said. “It helped me in every area of my life, not just baseball.”

Vocca will not be alone this year at GCC. Teammate Brandon Wacker, Jason Fornara and Cody Helgeson will also be attending the college. Of the three, Wacker is the only scholarship athlete along with Vocca. He also signed near the end of the season.

Fornara was planning to play for Eastern Community, but decided to go to GCC to be with his friends. Both he and Helgeson are scheduled to tryout for the team later this month.

All four have been friends since Little League.

Vocca’s girlfriend, Nicole Zettler, also will be close by. She’s playing softball at Paradise Valley.

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