Inland Area Player Of The Year: Etiwanda’s Chris Jimenez

Chris Jimenez has been gaining notice for his ability to hit a baseball for a while now.

A catcher and first baseman in four varsity seasons at Rancho Cucamonga Etiwanda High School, Jimenez had perhaps his best statistical season and has been selected as Inlandfieldhouse.com’s 2017 Prep Baseball Player of the Year.

“He’s a terrific hitter who makes good adjustments,” Etiwanda head coach Don Furnald said. “He’s meant a lot to the Etiwanda baseball program and he’s a kid you root for because of the things he done with the tools he’s been given.”

As a sophomore, Jimenez battled for a starting spot he’d eventually win with six XBHs and a flair for coming through in clutch situations. As a junior, he started to crush the ball in full, hitting .370 with four home runs and 19 RBI.
Jimenez and his Etiwanda teammates put it all together in 2017, going 14-1 to win the Baseline League before running the table in the playoffs.

“This year meant a lot because these last three years at Etiwanda we kept getting further and further in the playoffs, and this year we got to break out of that habit of losing in the second or third round,” Jimenez said. “It just meant a lot to us, me and Tyler () both because we’ve been playing for Etiwanda for four years.”

Jimenez hit .374 as a senior with 10 doubles, seven HRs and a team-high 40 RBI to finish his career with 109 hits in 344 at-bats.

“We bonded a lot more this year,” Jimenez said. “These guys, we had a lot of young guys so juniors and sophomores. We had one freshman and only five seniors, which was also a big jump for us because we’re used to have eight or 10 seniors, but we just bonded really well, hung out on weekends and stuff.”

It all led to exaltation as the Eagles (27-3 overall) defeated Palm Desert, 2-1, to win the CIF-Southern Section Division II championship game at Dodgers Stadium on Friday, June 2.

Jimenez went 1-for-4 with a run scored in the title game, and finished the playoffs with nine hits and nine RBI in five games.

“There was a lot of high energy on the field (in the championship game) and the crowd was phenomenal,” Jimenez remembered. “Being able to say I got a hit at Dodger Stadium or that we won a CIF championship there is a big deal and something I’ll remember forever.”

The 17-year-old will be on full scholarship at Long Beach State, working at his game in an even-tempered baseball environment.

“I’m very excited for my future (and) I think Long Beach State will help better me as a player and as a person,” Jimenez said. “I chose to go to Long Beach State mostly because of the coaching staff that they have. It’s very humble there. It’s a very humble environment and we’re not really hotheads because hotheads don’t prosper in that kind of environment. It’s hard on players and hard on everything else around, so not having that made me feel comfortable and made everything easier.”

He gave little thought to the recent MLB Draft – “Even if I were to get drafted it wouldn’t be high enough for me to go pro ball instead of college” – but that time will come.

In the meantime Jimenez is enjoying all the postseason accolades.

“This is fun,” Jimenez said while preparing to play in the IEBCA All-Star Game at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino on Monday, June 5. “It’s been a long run but it’s good to end it with an experience like this. It’s always cool to play at a minor league stadium.”

Keep hitting at Long Beach State, and he’ll see plenty more.

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