by Sergio Santistevan
Back in 2011, three friends had a vision of helping take youth baseball players to the next level. Now in 2020, Golden Spikes Baseball is one of the premier baseball organizations for youth development in the Sacramento, CA region.
Those three friends, Brett Hemphill, Alex Creel and Mikela Olsen, now lead the Golden Spikes coaching staff that consists fully of former professional and collegiate baseball players.
“I think it’s a big factor that draws a lot of really good ballplayers to our organization,” said Hemphill. “The training that we do is pretty rigorous and it’s great. I think the higher-level player is definitely seeking that out.”
Hemphill’s baseball career goes back to the early ’90s when he played at California State University, Fullerton, where he twice played in the College World Series. In 1994, Hemphill was voted “Best Defensive Player” of his team, Honorable Mention All-Big West and All-Tournament for the Midwest I Regional.
After a successful collegiate career, Hemphill went on to play seven years of professional baseball as a catcher with the Anaheim Angels organization. In the minor leagues, he experienced a pair of All-Star Game appearances and earned some hardware with 1995 and 1996 championships.
In 1999, Hemphill recorded a pair of hits in his first two major league at-bats – he’s one of a handful of players to ever record that stat. After an injury ended his career, he finished his professional career with a .270 batting average.
After leaving professional baseball, Hemphill moved into youth baseball as a member of the Hard 90 staff. As coaches with Hard 90, Hemphill, Creel and Olsen eventually decided to branch off and become co-founders of the California Golden Spikes.
Like Hemphill, Creel and Olsen have years of baseball experience. In 1999, Creel was ranked by Baseball America as the 49th best high school prospect in the nation. Creel went on to play at Arizona State and Cal Poly before injuries cut his career short.
Creel has become one of the best pitching experts in Northern California by emphasizing arm health, pitching mechanics and enhanced velocity. With his teachings, several pitchers have broken the 90MPH mark and been drafted in the MLB.
In 2003, Olsen was drafted by the Florida Marlins after a successful collegiate career at Sacramento State where he was team MVP and 2003 Independent Conference Hitter of the Year; he was awarded a spot on the Sacramento State’s All-Decade Team.
Olsen specializes his coaching practices on hitting, fielding and the mental aspect of the game.
The Golden Spikes coaching staff’s goal is to be a third-party set of eyes, which is why they don’t favor having fathers coaching sons on their teams. Hemphill believes this is what separates the Golden Spikes program from others, in how he values a player’s talent over political reasons.
“We’re not knocking the close dad-ball, but what we’re trying to do is have people say, ‘Hey I’m getting a good value for the dollar I’m spending because I’m getting a professional opinion from guys who have played the game at a high-level before who are looking at my kid as just a player,’” said Hemphill.
Some of the main objectives of the Golden Spikes program are to hold players accountable and implement high effort into their players' DNA.
“We try to have these kids write out their goals and try to keep them accountable to adhere to it,” said Hemphill. “We ask them ‘Well, how are you going to get there? You got to do your work, which requires you to try.’ You got to give us effort.”
This season, Hemphill and company have some goals that they want to accomplish on the diamond, as well. In March, the Golden Spikes will head down to Arizona to take part in Triple Crown Sports’ Arizona Spring Championships. The coaching staff is hoping for a good showing in Arizona to start their year off right.
The next tournament the Golden Spikes have circled is Cooperstown Dreams Park. In 2017, Hemphill’s squad made an unbelievable run in the tournament, and he hopes to relive that magic this time around.
“The last time I was there, the team I took finished second out of 104 teams, so I’d like these guys to experience what we went through, because it was an unreal run,” Hemphill said.
Whatever the results happen to be this season, Hemphill and the Golden Spikes coaching staff will continue their main goal of developing young players through it all.
“Coaching has allowed me to do something I’m passionate about,” he said. “It’s allowed me to stay involved in baseball and try to teach young kids the way I was taught.”