By Bruce Auld
News Review Correspondent
Last week I was in Northern Virginia (NOVA) for our granddaughter’s 8th grade promotion. Donnie Goeppinger (BHS 1994) was there. He knew I was chronicling Burroughs graduates and asked if I had done a story on Domonique “Biggie” Hernandez. I had not. In short order, Mom Natalie, set up an interview with Biggie. Alex Beltran gave Domonique his nickname while watching Domonique climb a six-foot fence at age two. The nickname was reinforced when Domonique was hitting homeruns as a six-year-old.
A very confident freshman at Burroughs, Biggie knew he could play with the “big boys,” Biggie’s assessment of his talent was right. He earned all-conference recognition his freshmen, junior, and senior years. In his senior year (2015) the Burroughs were co-champions of the Mojave River League.
Upon graduating from Burroughs, Biggie and former teammates came together as the IWV Sidewinders competing the SoCal Summer League. After years of youth baseball together, it would be their last season playing together. They competed in tournaments all around Los Angeles and qualified for the championship rounds advancing to regionals and losing by just two by runs.
Biggie played two seasons at Cerro Coso Community College. In his freshman year, he was named All-Conference in the Foothill League, leading the state with a .419 batting average. Between his freshman and sophomore years at Cerro Coso, Biggie played for the Lake Elsinore “Bombers,” again competing in the SoCal Summer League. In addition to his stellar batting, Biggie was the closing pitcher for the Bombers. During his sophomore year at Cerro Coso, Biggie was named All-Conference, All-Sectional and led the state in triples with thirteen. Also, during his sophomore year, Biggie signed with the Missouri Baptist College (MBC) “Spartans” of the American Midwest Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). In his junior year with MBC, Biggie was named an Academic All-Conference in the American Midwest Conference and Second Team All-Conference hitting .386.
Biggie’s first year of professional baseball was with the Wasco Reserve of the Pecos League, an independent league not affiliated with Major League Baseball (MLB). Biggie hit .413 in his first season. The pay was low and the amenities even lower. After recovering from a serious hamstring injury, Biggie landed a contract with the Rocky Mountain Vibes, a MLB partner team in the Pioneer League. The Vibes are a Triple A team playing their home games at UCHealth Park in Colorado Springs. Triple A is the highest level of Minor League Baseball, just one below the majors. The pay and amenities are much improved from his start with the Wasco Reserve. Biggie recently signed a contracted with Acereros of Monclova which is a team in the Mexican League. With continued good play with the Vibes, Biggie could be called up to the Professional Mexican League.
Biggie was privileged to coach for Cerro Coso during the 2021-2022 season. Cerro Coso placed second in the Foothill League and made the play-offs for the first time in 20 years. “This was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was able to look at the game from a different perspective and give tips and pointers to the up and growing ball players. I was a hitting, out fielding, and first base coach. The coaching perspective is helping me become a more complete hitter and player. My plans after baseball is to be a business owner and start my own hitting facility to give private lessons, which I already do back home. I want to help kids love the game of baseball and to also make them better players and young men. I enjoy baseball a lot and I just want to show everyone how great this game is and how hard work will get you to great places.” (Biggie)
Biggie began his professional baseball career with an independent league team. The Battered Bastards of Baseball is a 2014 documentary on the Portland, Oregon Mavericks independent baseball team. The team was created by Bing Russell, father of actor Kurt Russell who stars in the film.
To my knowledge Biggie is the only Burro currently playing professional baseball.
Kevin Martin was a standout baseball player for Southern Colorado University SCU), Pueblo. His son Cole has one year of baseball eligibility remaining at SCU and will be joined by younger brother Caden who will attend on an academic scholarship. Caden plans to join the baseball team as a walk-on player. Longtime Ridgecrest baseball players and former Burroughs players Cody Kent and Michael Smosna are elevating their play at the college level. Cody has signed with Midland College in Nebraska on a full athletic (baseball) scholarship. Michael will be playing baseball at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas.
2022 Burroughs graduate Conner Batzer will commit to playing baseball with California State University, San Bernardino next week. Conner was the Burroughs baseball MVP and the Mojave River League (MRL) Player of the Year. A four-year varsity baseball player, Conner received a US Navy Athlete of the Year award. Conner led the MRL in strikeouts with 92 and batted .325. This summer, Conner is playing baseball for the SoCal Bombers in the SoCal Summer League.
Nine Burros have played or worked in professional baseball. Kevin Martin and his younger brother, JD Martin, signed with the Cleveland Indians on the same day at Jacobs Field, Cleveland, Ohio. Kevin was signed as a free agent by the Cleveland Indians and over his four-year career played for five minor league teams.
On June 5, 2001, JD was a first-round draft pick by the Cleveland Indians and played with the Cleveland organization for eight years. As a minor league free agent, JD signed with the Washington Nationals, pitching for the Syracuse Chiefs. JD was called-up to the Nationals, making his MLB pitching debut against the New York Mets on July 20, 2009. On August 9, 2009, JD posted his first major league win against the Arizona Diamondbacks, pitching five innings, giving up one run on five hits. The Nationals won 9-2. JD ended the season with a 5-4 record. JD would have the longest professional baseball career (19 years) in Burrough’s history and the only Burro to play in the major leagues.
The most successful Burroughs baseball team was the 2001 squad that played in the state championship at Dodger Stadium.