Steve Lambright heard it all the time from friends and rival coaches. Just how did he get so lucky?
Most days, the Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
coach got to pencil in three potential high draft picks in this week's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, an unexpected and much appreciated talent bonanza for a public-school program.
"It just kind of happened," Lambright said.
About an hour south of Hollywood, Edison's trio of shortstop
, righthander Henry Owens
and outfielder Eric Snyder
represent one of the biggest storylines in this year's draft. Each emerged from different paths to become big-time prospects, but collectively they could give the program that produced former All-Star Jeff Kent its first outright first-round pick (Owens) and two picks in the second-through-fifth rounds (Lopes and Snyder).
"It's definitely cool," Lopes said. "We're all excited. We always joke around about getting drafted by the same team."
There is an ever-so-slight possibility this trio, all of whom are committed to major Division I programs, could stay together through the draft, although it would take something akin to the sun, moon and stars aligning to make a major league organization's farm system considerably more Edison-centric.
If it happened, it would not be the first happy accident involving Edison baseball. Lambright often says having a lineup card featuring Lopes, Owens and Snyder was the product of good fortune: the latter two came from within the school district, while Lopes' family moved from Valencia prior to his junior year.
Of the trio, Snyder is the late bloomer. Although he stands 6 feet and 175 pounds, swings a potent lefty bat now and has a scholarship to UCLA awaiting him, he stood just 5-1 and a soaking-wet 100 pounds five years ago before growing up and filling out to 5-9 and 140 pounds before his second year in eighth grade; a strong student otherwise, he says he repeated the year to improve his reading and comprehension levels.
"Growing up, I was always the smallest kid on the team and barely starting," Snyder said. "I finally just hit a growth spurt and just had my coaches to help me be a better player, grow up and grow into my body."
Since his spurt, Snyder has emerged as what Lambright labeled "a five-tool player." This season, he hit .351 with six home runs, 16 RBIs and 26 runs scored.
If Snyder is the late bloomer, then Owens is the blue chipper of this bunch, one of the Top 10 high school pitchers nationally
and a National Player of the Year candidate. However, before he went 12-1 with a 1.15 ERA, 140 strikeouts and just 45 hits scattered in 91.2 innings this year, he developed from rearing back and firing into a pitcher whose cerebral approach matched his electric stuff. Owens can throw his fastball, curve, circle-change and slider for strikes, with his heater hitting 93 mph on the radar gun.
"He's the best high school player not only that I've ever coached," Lambright said, "but that I've ever seen."
When Lopes' family moved from Valencia, the Chargers got a shortstop so gifted that he earned the U-13 Player of the Year award from the National Youth Service. But the 6-0, 180-pounder scuffled in his first season alongside Owens and Snyder as a junior.
"Initially it took a little getting used to," Lopes said. "But all of the guys welcomed me."
After getting acclimated last spring, Lopes batted .329 with seven homers, 24 RBIs, 27 runs scored and 10 steals.
"It's an honor to play with these two kids, Eric and Henry," Lopes said.
Odds are, Edison's trio of prospects played their final game together when the Chargers lost their California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinal to Lakewood on May 27. Lopes signed with USC, where he and Snyder could play against each other a few times a year unless they get drafted high and are offered enough financial incentive to spurn college.
As for Owens, he is a probable first-rounder without ever taking the mound at the University of Miami, although most first-round selections choose big-money contracts over giving the game the old college try.
"We'll see what happens," Owens said. "Either way, I hope to be able to make the right decision for both me and my family."
Irregardless of what happens in the draft, Lambright still counts himself as lucky that he gets to coach three top-tier prospects, with Owens set to make Edison history as its first outright first-round pick; pitcher David Huff was picked by the Cleveland Indians as a first-round supplemental selection in 2006.
"For me, I've never had a kid get drafted in the first round," Lambright said. "If we could get a first-, a second- and maybe a third- or fourth-round pick, that's really great for this high school."Follow Brian Falzarano on Twitter: @BrianFalzarano