Bell High makes history with appearance in City Section Open Division final

Catcher Nomar Solis prepares to hug pitcher Rigoberto Baltazar after Bell's City Open Division semifinal win.
Catcher Nomar Solis prepares to hug pitcher Rigoberto Baltazar after Bell’s City Open Division semifinal win over Granada Hills.
(Craig Weston)

The last time Bell High played in the City Section upper division championship baseball game was 1953. Dodger Stadium didn’t exist, the Dodgers were in Brooklyn and the first four-level freeway interchange opened in September at the Harbor, Hollywood, Pasadena and Santa Ana freeways.

Bell’s appearance in Saturday’s 1 p.m. Open Division final against Birmingham at Dodger Stadium is historic.

“We have nothing to lose,” Bell coach Frank Medina told his players after their 1-0 semifinal win over Granada Hills. “We’re playing with house money.”


Bell (21-6), a winner of 18 of its last 19 games, has so many underclassmen as major contributors (the Eagles start three freshmen and three sophomores) that the players hardly realized their accomplishment. Their poise under pressure and ability to play defense got them through a semifinal game in which top-seeded Granada Hills left 12 players on base and never scored despite being given nine walks.

Bell coach Frank Medina talks to his players after semifinal win sends them on a trip to Dodger Stadium.
Bell coach Frank Medina talks to his players after semifinal win sends them on a trip to Dodger Stadium.
(Craig Weston)

“We pride ourselves on being gritty and not being afraid,” Medina said.

The Dodger Stadium experience, however, is a whole different level. It’s where experience really does matter and fundamentals are a must because of the field’s dimensions, from the catcher preventing wild pitches to the first baseman stopping throws bounced in the dirt from going into the dugout to fielders being able to handle bunts. And trying to hit home runs usually leads to lots of fly-ball outs.

Birmingham (19-10-1), the defending champion, is playing in its sixth Open Division final in the last seven years under coach Matt Mowry, who has won zero West Valley League championships in 18 season but five City titles. He’s been to Dodger Stadium so often he deserves an office next to Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ manager.

The Dodger Stadium experience has been one of a kind for City Section players since the first City final was played there in 1969 and won by Birmingham.

Bell sophomore Jayden Rojas will get the start on the mound. He was in the stands a week ago when the Dodgers were playing the Reds, seeing Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.

“Yes, it’s been a dream to play there,” he said. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a Dodger fan.”


A year ago, Birmingham pitcher Michael Figueroa stood in the dugout mostly eating sunflower seeds as the Patriots defeated Carson 3-1. Now he’s the ace and getting the call to pitch on Saturday afternoon.

Birmingham pitcher Michael Figueroa will end his high school career as the starting pitcher at Dodger Stadium.
(Craig Weston)

“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s every kid’s dream to play in the championship game at Dodger Stadium. The view is amazing. You can feel the atmosphere, and it gets everyone going.”

Figueroa has been to Disneyland, but playing at Dodger Stadium is better than any ride.

“I don’t think anything tops being at Dodger Stadium and playing there,” he said.

Well, there is one thing — playing and winning.

Medina immediately made that point after the semifinal game, giving his team a fiery speech that they not to be satisfied just getting to play at Dodger Stadium.

“Take care of business now,” he told them.

Bell, a city of nearly 34,000 residents, is likely to have a home-field advantage among the fans.

“Trust me,” Medina said, “we’re going to have a huge crowd.”

On Saturday, Rojas will get his first chance to walk on the field of dreams.

“It’s pretty crazy to be able to play on a field where a lot of stars play,” Rojas said. “You can’t even describe it.”


One Bell assistant coach thanked the players for allowing him to coach at Dodger Stadium.

This is a big deal for everyone involved.

And don’t be surprised if you catch a player or two bringing a jar or plastic bag to take home some Dodger Stadium dirt as a keepsake.

Both pitchers know what they have to do.

“I’m going to be ready,” Figueroa said.

Said Rojas: “I’m pretty happy to be in this situation. It’s a big game, but I’ll be able to get through it.”