San Benito County cheers as local athlete enters MLB

Haybaler alum Conner Menez made his SF Giants debut July 21.
Elias Barocio decided to attend the July 21 game when hearing Menez would be making his MLB debut. Photo courtesy of Elias Barocio.Local groups, like the Baler Sports Instagram page, post on Menez's career. Photo by Becky Bonner.

When San Francisco Giants pitcher Conner Menez took the mound for the first time at Oracle Park on July 21, it wasn’t just family and friends, but excited San Benito County residents cheering him on.

A left-handed pitcher, Menez’s Major League Baseball debut consisted of five innings pitched, for three hits, two earned runs, two walks, and six strikeouts.

To county residents, this was something to take note of.

“For him to come out and have the performance he had was unbelievable,” said Menez’s high school varsity baseball coach Billy Aviles. “Hollister is definitely a baseball town and anytime you can have someone from a small community like this make the major leagues that is pretty phenomenal.”

San Benito High School Athletic Director Tod Thatcher agreed.

“What a story,” he said. “Small town kid attends a small college and gets drafted by his ‘hometown’ big league team. It just goes to show what hard work and perseverance can do when added to talent. It was a special day for Conner and all of Hollister was rooting for him.”

After the game, local support for Menez grew as residents took to social media to share their excitement.

On the San Francisco Giants’ Instagram, comments from San Benito County resident were prominent.

  • A.j.rovella: “Great job @cmenez_13 showing the baseball world, Hollister has some kids with talent, playing ball. Keep up the hard work #51.”
  • Andrez_nl: “Hollister California STAND UP”
  • Jbizzle_fershizzle: “831 in the house! Congrats buddy🧡🖤”
  • Ksalvas93: “Puttin down for Hollister! Great start to a long career.”
  • Baler74: “Making the Hollister Haybalers proud!!!!! 😊”
  • Idy_espinoza: “#BalerStrong”
  • No1sfgiantsfan: “From my town!!! Go Conor!”
  • Saberpad: “Let’s hear it for the Baler!!! Wooohooo from Go Balers to Go Giants!! Congrats!!!”
  • Slohombre: “I’ve never rooted for a San Benito High School kid until today. Great work, Conor!”
  • calavera coffee: “Shoutout from back home! GOOD Luck!”
  • Hollisterliquors: “@cmenez_13 Fantastic game. Keep it up! You deserve this.”
  • 2010christine: “Congratulations Conner on your Awesome debut!! It was so exciting being there for it!! You’ve made our town So Proud!!!!”

Though he doesn’t know Menez personally, Elias Barocio was inspired to go to the game with his family and friends.

“It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to see a local kid playing for your favorite baseball team,” he said. “It felt unreal.”

Local Marisa Villegas, who currently runs on UCLA’s cross country and track/field teams, was also in the crowd.

“I went to the game with my mom and sisters,” she said. “We got to the game about 30 minutes early and were sitting in the bleacher seats watching Conner warm up. We were all so excited to see him on the field in the major leagues. It was a special moment knowing that he was from your hometown and high school.”

For Aviles, part of the magic was reflecting on Menez’s journey.

“It couldn’t have happened to nicer kid and family,” Aviles said. “He was the kind of kid who always worked hard, gave max effort, and never complained. He was a great team player.”

Menez’s work ethic has already rubbed off on others.

“It’s always so exciting to hear about athletes from your hometown do big things like commit to play a sport in college or do something great,” said Villegas. “It just shows that no matter where you’re from, big or small town, if you work hard for what you want, you can achieve anything.”

Since his debut, Menez has pitched in two other games with the Giants facing Washington and Philadelphia. He has pitched 12.2 innings in the majors while splitting his time with the Giants and Sacramento. Chasing his first major league win, Menez has struck out 14 batters.

He is scheduled to pitch on Aug. 16 for Sacramento against Reno at 7:05 p.m.

“Conner has some serious heat,” Barocio said. “He can pitch and I hope he’s going to be a Giant for a long time. We wish him nothing but success.”


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Becky Bonner

Becky Bonner is a local teacher at San Benito High School who is passionate about sharing things to do in San Benito County.