Talk started drifting around Major League Baseball prospect Caiden Huber when he was a freshman at Yucaipa High School.
Back then, he was a freshman JV player for the ruggedly-talented T-Birds baseball program. Word started escaping that Huber was verbally committing to baseball-rich USC.
True or false?
“When I went to their showcase,” said Huber, “I was a freshman. There were seniors there. About 150 kids total. Three days. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.”
Danny Davidsmeier, a long-ago Thunderbird athletic hero and still very much a part of the city’s active athletic hierarchy, admitted to steering Huber toward the Trojans.
Davidsmeier, who is Huber’s hitting coach, just laughed.
“I go to the (USC) alumni game every year,” he said, “and started talking with Bob Batesole. I told him I thought we had a guy he’d be interested in. He told me to get him into (USC’s) Christmas camp.”
Batesole, who played second base at USC when Davidsmeier was Trojans’ shortstop way back in the early 1980s, called his old keystone buddy back, saying, “We really like that kid.”
Huber seemed energized by that story.
“I’ve gone to Danny since I was 7-years-old,” Huber said. “He sent me to their showcase.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 11, Huber put his signature on official NCAA documents that goes beyond just a verbal commitment.
Figure it this way: It takes one shortstop to recognize another.
Davidsmeier, an eventual draftee by Milwaukee who played minor league ball behind future Hall of Famer middle infielders Robin Yount and Paul Molitor -- effectively blocking the former T-Bird from a MLB spot -- was highly protective of his younger protege.
“It was either my eighth grade year or my freshman year,” said Huber, who is now 17. “One of the coaches on my travel ball team was trying to change my swing a little.”
When Davidsmeier heard about that, he instinctively stood up.
“Don’t listen to them. Don’t let them touch you.”
Huber, he was saying, “has one of the best swings anyone’s ever seen.”
In other words, Huber’s not only a prospect. He’s off limits to anyone who thinks they can make him better.
Davidsmeier, for his part, doesn’t do much to tinker with Huber’s left-handed swing, either.
“When I go see him once a week or every couple weeks,” said Huber, “it’s like a therapy session. We’ll talk about fishing or about family. I’ll take some swings, but he doesn’t say too much.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Huber is as much of a prospect as anyone could be.
Too much pressure, he was asked?
“No,” he said. “I’m ready for this.”
Believe it or not, in a calendar year of 365 days, Huber might participate in 300 games. Sometimes, he said, “I’ll play in three games in one day.”
That’s high school, summer league and fall ball at Yucaipa. He’s got Thursday night games at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino, plus Brewers’ scout team games at the same site.
“Last summer,” he said, “I went to Arizona about 10 times to play in tournaments down there.”
There are trips to Georgia and Florida.
So much for COVID-19, right?
All those games and he’s only suited up 24 times for Yucaipa’s varsity lineup during its regular season. Don’t forget last spring’s COVID-shortened schedule, plus his sophomore season in which he underwent knee surgery.
“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said.
Yes, he’s a prospect and enjoying every bit of it.
There’s plenty of attention being cast in his direction.
“I can take it,” he assured.
His support system includes his grandfather, Jack Huntsman. “Grandpa used to pitch wiffle balls to me when I was 8.”
There’s Davidsmeier, plus Huber’s uncle, current MLB free agent Matt Davidson, his father, Jake, his mother, Lindsey, along with Huntsman -- plus more -- all in his corner.
That transition from longtime Yucaipa High baseball coach Jeff Stout to incoming star Ralph Grajeda hasn’t slowed Huber’s development.
For such a highly-touted prospect, Huber waited his turn behind sophomore Jordan Andrade, who started at shortstop when Yucaipa copped its 2017 CIF Division 2 championship in Grajeda’s first season as coach.
That season, Huber was a 5-11, 150-pound freshman.
“He’s one of the better bats I’ve seen,” said Grajeda, 50, who has been all around baseball-filled Orange County. “I’ve had discussions with several schools about him.
“I’ve seen him through travel ball.”
Name the showcase, he’s been through it all. No doubt about it; Huber is being primed for prime time baseball.
“Definitely,” he said, “the goal is MLB. I’ve had quite a few invitations to MLB prospect teams.”
Take a look, sometime, at Riverside-based California Baseball Academy’s player list. Players headed for LSU, San Diego State, Notre Dame, UCLA, Berkeley, Long Beach State and, of course, USC, are all included.
“Once they offered me,” he said, “I talked with family. I stayed close to home.”
During that 2018 showcase at USC, Huber remembers simulation games, running 60-yard sprints, taking plenty of grounders - plus batting practice.
He had at least two hits in each game over that three-day grind.
“I had a couple of doubles,” he said, “but you’ve got to remember, I was just a freshman. I didn’t have the strength yet that I’ve got now.”