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OCC’s Moniot bouncing back big

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Orange Coast College shortstop Travis Moniot.
(Courtesy of Orange Coast College athletics)

The New York Yankees will retire Derek Jeter’s No. 2 on Sunday, adding another accolade for one of the game’s most admired heroes.

Orange Coast College shortstop Travis Moniot is among Jeter’s legion of fans, and he aspires to one day inspire the reverential whispers of admirers regarding both his talent and temperament.

“I want to be an impact big leaguer,” Moniot said of his ultimate baseball dream, which continues for the Pirates in the second round of the Southern California Regional playoffs with a best-of-three series at home against Santa Ana that begins Friday at 2 p.m. “I don’t want to be an average big leaguer. I want to be a guy that kids look up to and get excited about. I want to be a role model, someone parents tell their kids to pattern themselves after, on and off the field. I want to set a good example and be a true professional.”

Moniot has checked the on- and off-the-field boxes for OCC this season, helping the Pirates (33-9) win the Orange Empire Conference and pursue what would be the program’s third state championship in four seasons.

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A 6-foot, 190-pound bounce-back from the University of Oregon, Moniot is batting .361 with seven home runs, 32 RBIs and 15 stolen bases with an eye-popping 1,176 OPS. He shared Orange Empire MVP honors and has committed to play next season at the University of Arizona.

But despite his myriad skills, it is Moniot’s intangibles that Pirates coach John Altobelli mentions first when addressing the future pro, who was drafted in the 34th round by the San Francisco Giants out of high school.

“The thing that impressed me most about him is, he doesn’t big-league guys,” Altobelli said. “He’s working with the freshmen at shortstop on defensive things. He’s talking to kids, working hard. He has been a great kid to be around all year.”

After helping Palm Desert to two CIF Southern Section title games, winning one, during a four-year varsity career, Moniot declined to sign with the Giants in order to become a Duck. He was coach George Horton’s everyday shortstop in 2016, when he hit .168 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 53 games.

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“It was fun to be at such a prestigious university as Oregon,” Moniot said. “It just didn’t turn out the way I expected it to. I was just in my head a little too much. I got away from what worked for me growing up and in high school.”

When he decided to leave Eugene, Moniot said praise for OCC from former teammates, including fellow Oregon bounce-backs Kyle Robeniol and McKinley Lafore (who are a combined 15-1 from the mound this season) helped bring him to Costa Mesa.

“I think it has been more than what I expected,” Moniot said of his experience at OCC. “The coaches are more than helpful and they are fun and energetic. They let us play and just run a really good program overall.”

Moniot, a respected team leader, said the friendships he has made in the OCC dugout will last a lifetime.

“We have great team chemistry and when you have that, you can do some pretty incredible things,” Moniot said. “I’ve never been part of something this special.”

Altobelli also has appreciated Moniot’s presence.

“When we got the call that he wanted to leave Oregon, we knew we had a great player coming down,” Altobelli said. “We lost five conference games and Travis didn’t play in three of those. If that doesn’t speak volumes about being a team MVP guy, I don’t know what will.”

barry.faulkner@latimes.com

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Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5


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