The Coast News Group

JayParis: LCC’s Moniak is making his mark off the diamond, too

It’s all about baseball for Mickey Moniak and with skills like his, why not?

Then again, there’s more to the La Costa Canyon High star than bats, balls and bubble gum.

Moniak, who’s among the nation’s top prep players, is playing in Sunday’s Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park. The game matches the best of the best and it’s easy to see why Moniak is involved.

He’s All-State, All-CIF, All-Everything.

But the contest is more than a top-shelf exhibition of high school baseball. Along with the horsehide is the participants getting alongside kids who’ve been thrown a curveball of the worst kind.

Cancer is a scrooge at any level. But these words are always tough to type: pediatric cancer.

“This is more than a game,’’ Moniak said. “There’s a bigger picture here.’’

The contest’s meaning finds focus before the first pitch.

The Perfect Game players visit Rady Children’s Hospital to hang with patients who should be chasing butterflies, throwing rocks or sneaking an extra cookie when Mom acts like she isn’t looking.

In watching Moniak play it’s easy to be impressed. His left-handed swing is ripped from a textbook. His breaks on fly balls in center field are quick and decisive. He hustles everywhere like his hair is on fire and you sure Moniak can’t help the struggling Padres?

Maybe some day.

Now he’s zeroed in on tykes needing an assist more than the fading Friars.

Before this week’s official Perfect Game appearance, Moniak made a trek to Rady.

All on his own.

“I just wanted to go down there so I would at least know my way around,’’ he said.

He made the rounds as smoothly as he circles the bases. The kids grinned and they gave Moniak as much, if not more, than he received.

“That’s the main thing about this game,’’ said Moniak, who’s heading into his senior year. “Raising money.’’

Each player, through donations from friends and family, are asked to collect $2,000. Many surpass that and is there a better way to spend your dough?

“It’s really humbling,’’ Moniak said. “The main issue is to raise money to fund the research because going there is a real eye-opener.’’

It’s an open-and-shut case that Moniak’s future is bright.

He’s nearing a roster spot on the US under-18 team, which will tour the Pacific Rim. He has a scholarship in his hip pocket to UCLA. He’s been touted as a top-15 pick and if he’s still on the board at No. 15, we’ll be surprised.

That’s all great and LCC couldn’t be prouder. But his coach knows there’s more to Moniak than him setting Mavericks hitting records.

“He’s such a down-to-earth kid,’’ said LCC coach Justin Machado. “He wants to win games with his baseball buddies and that is what he takes pride in. He sets the tone for every practice. He is just a great kid.’’

That’s obvious when watching him glide around a diamond.

Coaches and scouts are still raving about the over-the-shoulder catch he made at the recent Area Code Games. UCLA coach John Salvage later took Moniak and his parents to dinner, then commented: “That was probably a waste of money.’’

It’s unlikely Moniak becomes a Bruin with major-league teams beating a path to his Encinitas door with a rich contract.

Then again…

“You never know,’’ Moniak said. “I definitely want to go pro, that has always been a dream. But having UCLA is not a bad option, either.

“Either way, it’s got to be an easy decision. I’m just looking forward to playing baseball the next few months and we’ll see.’’

Look at his background and it screams baseball and why not when he started playing at age 2.

Bill Moniak, his grandfather and biggest fan, played in the Red Sox organization where a certain Bostonian, and San Diego native, took a liking to him.

“Ted Williams was his hitting coach,’’ Moniak said.

Moniak’s father, Matt, played at San Diego State before waves trumped wiping out pitchers.

“He likes to surf,’’ Moniak said.

It’s a tsunami of baseball chatter when the three generations meet. But the heck with their past, what does Moniak’s crystal ball reveal in 10 years?

“Hopefully I’ll be in the big leagues playing for the Padres,’’ he said. “But any team works. I just want to be in the big leagues, establishing myself and living my dream.’’

Those kids at Rady dream, too. Theirs is to get out of that dang bed and, well, be a kid again.

Moniak is doing is part. That’s why you can’t help but root for him, on and off the field.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.