Coming from the Bay Area for his final year of high school, Joel Olmos, who describes himself as a loner, wasn’t necessarily out to make friends at Manteca High.
“I was just trying to focus and get everything done, trying to get my name out there,” Olmos said.
He did that and more.
After making an impact for the school’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship football team as a receiver in the fall, the speedy senior center fielder helped put the young baseball team in contention for another section title.
Olmos’ consistent production was noticed by opposing coaches who voted him as the Valley Oak League’s Offensive Player of the Year. He’s also the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Baseball MVP.
Olmos, who transferred from Lincoln of San Jose, topped all Manteca-area players in batting average (.483), on-base percentage (.574) and runs scored (36). He also had 43 hits, 15 RBIs, five doubles and four triples while batting in the leadoff spot for the Buffaloes and boasted a .983 fielding percentage (one error).
“I had an opportunity to make a new name for myself, and I knew if I put in the work and played the best I could play I would do that,” Olmos said. “I knew the team was really young, so I felt like as soon as I got here I would be more of a role model. Being put into leadoff and centerfield for a new team, I felt like a captain of some sort.”
Olmos proved to be a perfect fit in both sports at Manteca. In football, he was a speed threat and clutch third-down performer for a team known more for slugging it out with opponents on the ground. His speed was also an asset on the baseball diamond, and his lead-by-example approach was welcomed by a club that had just three returning starters from the 2016 SJS championship team.
The Buffaloes followed up their banner season with a second-place finish in the competitive VOL, going 10-4 and 20-9 overall.
Olmos was at his best against top competition. He went 3 for 5 with two runs in a 6-1 nonleague win over Escalon, the SJS Division V runner-up. He later went 3 for 6 in the league-opening series with Oakdale, which went on to run the table for the VOL title and took second in the Division III playoffs.
Olmos had a nine-game hitting streak during the first half of the season, and after back-to-back hitless outings he went on a 10-game tear in which he batted 20 for 33 (.606 average). He was 6 for 11 with three doubles and eight runs in four postseason games.
“It’s kind of weird to say, but I feel like I do better when I’m faced with better competition because that’s what I’m used to,” Olmos said. “When I was 14 my parents would put me in 18-under tournaments. I was never able to be the best player on the team but it gave me good experience, so throughout high school I never had a problem with fast pitching.”
Manteca nearly made it back to the section finals but ran into one of the state’s top teams in No. 1-seeded Christian Brothers. The Buffaloes forced a winner-take-all game in the best-of-three semifinal series, ending a 17-game winning streak for the Falcons. Christian Brothers capitalized on two unearned runs to take the deciding game, 4-3. The Falcons beat Oakdale for the section championship and was later named the Cal-Hi Sports Division III State Team of the Year, an honor bestowed to the Buffaloes in 2014.
“They have some very good players on their team, but we were getting hot at the end of the year so we knew that (series) could have went either way,” Olmos said. “We just came up short, but overall I’m proud of what we accomplished this year.”
Olmos will remain in the Central Valley as he pursues his dream of playing in the big leagues. He plans on competing for Delta College.
“I gave up football,” Olmos said. “I went to one of the first practices and toward the last 30 minutes I made up my mind. My heart was not in it. I really want to make it to the MLB, and it’s time to really focus on it.”