Northgate baseball honors a two-school coaching legend at Ted Abbott Field

Northgate baseball honors a two-school coaching legend at Ted Abbott Field

Northgate baseball honors a two-school coaching legend at Ted Abbott FieldWALNUT CREEK, CA—Sixth in a series about athletic facilities at eight local high schools.

A coach who became a legend at two Mt. Diablo Unified School District high schools is honored at Northgate High with the naming of Ted Abbott Field.

Also, a Hall of Fame coach at College Park High in Pleasant Hill, Abbott was the first Broncos baseball coach when the school opened in September 1974 and his name is forever affixed to the first base side of the backstop facing the Walnut Creek school.

Northgate baseball has paid homage to one of its pioneering coaches and teachers with a long run of success on the diamond bearing his name over the past two decades, winning league championships and reaching the North Coast Section Division II championship game four times between 2002 and 2016.

Ted Abbott Field

Just like at Northgate, Abbott was a trailblazer at College Park where he helped open that high school in 1960 and stayed until moving to the new Northgate campus. He coached baseball and football at the Pleasant Hill school during the pre-North Coast Section playoffs era in both sports.

Abbott had graduated from Richmond High and his first coaching experience was at Harry Ells in Richmond before heading to the newly opened College Park. He coached back-to-back unbeaten football teams for the Falcons.

The College Park High Hall of Fame began in 2007 and Abbott was inducted in its second year, one of just four coaches in the nearly 50-year history of the school to be so honored in the first two years of the Hall of Fame.

Just as he had done at College Park, Abbott started from the ground up putting together a program during the first six seasons of Northgate varsity baseball through 1980. He was one of a number of veteran coaches from various Mt. Diablo Unified School District schools to join the new school when it opened.

Abbott continued teaching physical education at Northgate until his retirement in 1993. He died in May 2008. Al Hurtado, his teaching and coaching colleague at College Park, said, “He was a giant in his field, above everybody else, because of the quality of his character. His P.E. program was the best I’ve ever seen.”

Abbott’s groundwork led to the school’s first NCS baseball appearance in 1982. His coaching and teaching earned him the honor of having his name forever connected to the diamond on the edge of the sprawling campus near the north entrance to Mount Diablo State Park. His is the only name attached to an athletic facility at the 46-year-old campus, the “youngest” MDUSD high school.

Bronco state championship teams

Northgate teams have claimed two coveted California State championships, something that has eluded the majority of public schools in the state.

1995 Boys Basketball

The 1995 Broncos boys basketball team won the CIF Division III championship at the Oakland Coliseum, winning 47-41 over Artesia of Lakewood, which had won three of the previous five D-II titles.

The Broncos were 10-0 in Foothill Athletic League play before advancing to the NCS playoffs. Seniors Rick Croy, co-captain Alvaro Solórzano, Jason Williams and Nate Murray provided talent and leadership and junior guard Frank Allocco Jr. was FAL MVP. “The Polish Rifle” Bob Dziengleski and sophomore Ryan Inouye provided sparks off the bench. At NCS they defeated Sonoma Valley and Benicia but fell to Hayward 67-60 in the Division III championship game.

To reach the State championship game, coach Frank Allocco Sr. had to first guide his team through the Northern California championships. The Broncos beat Hillsdale and Chico to setup a rematch with Hayward. March 9 turned out to be a special date for the Walnut Creek school when they gained revenge and beat Hayward 56-40 at the Oakland Coliseum for the NorCal D-III.

Exactly one year later in the same building they upended Woodside 61-51 for the 1996 NorCal D-II championship, putting the Broncos in the 1996 Division II CIF championship game where they lost to Dominguez of Compton at ARCO Arena in Sacramento.

2015 Boys Swimming and Diving

Northgate officially opened its state-of-the art $8.1 million aquatic center in the Fall of 2015. That previous spring the Broncos boys swim team made history as champions of the inaugural 2015 CIF State swimming and diving meet in Clovis. The team got to practice for two weeks in the new pool before their historic championship performance.

Co-coaches Tommy Ortega and Jeff Mellinger were feted by the California Coaches Association as the California State boys swimming coaches of the year after the duo led the Bronco to the state championship as well as winning both the 2015 DVAL and North Coast Section meets. Northgate boys also won NCS team titles in 2014 and 1996.

At the first-ever CIF Swimming and Diving Championships May 22-23, 2015 in Clovis the Broncos outscored second-place San Ramon Valley by 59 points.

Mellinger, now heading the school’s boys and girls swimming and diving teams, says, “We won the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays and scored key points in the 200 free relay. We had at least one swimmer score in every individual event with top three finishes by Mason Tittle and Eric Van Brocklin. Calvin Kirkpatrick was versatile as we were able to use him in all three relays. Max Bottene and Stanley Wu were also important contributors.”

Northgate alums shine

Northgate graduates include an Olympic gold medalist, NCAA and PGA Tour golf champion, a playoff winning starting pitcher with 200 major league decisions and a Bronco soccer player who became a WWE Diva!

Kristen Babb-Sprague, a 1986 Northgate grad, competed for the Walnut Creek Aquanuts since she was six years-old. She gained fame at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics where she won gold for the United States in solo synchronized swimming. Her victory was controversial because of a judge’s error that gave the wrong score to her main challenger and the event favorite, Canadian Sylvie Fréchette. Babb-Sprague was the first synchronized swimmer to earn perfect scores in artistic impression at the Olympics for her ground-breaking innovative routines. Sixteen months later the International Olympic Committee also presented Fréchette with a gold medal.

She’s been called the original “Comeback Kid.” Following a career-threatening back injury in 1989, she returned from a year-long layoff from the sport to win three consecutive national solo titles and two national team titles. In Barcelona she came from behind to win gold in the solo event after having placed second to Fréchette at almost every meet since her injury. The year before the Olympics Babb-Sprague got married and was second to Fréchette in solo at the World Championships but did win gold for the United States team routine.

She was featured in print advertising campaigns by Speedo and Max Factor in such magazines as Rolling Stone, New Women and McCall’s. Babb-Sprague has been a national spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

She was inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1999.

Babb-Sprague is married to former major league third baseman and current Oakland Athletics executive Ed Sprague Jr. Incredibly, Babb-Sprague is the second most decorated member of the couple. Her husband is the only baseball player ever to have won championships in the College World Series (1987 and 1988 at Stanford), Summer Olympics (baseball gold medal 1988 Seoul) and World Series (Toronto Blue Jays 1992 and 1993).

Keith Clearwater, class of 1977, made a big splash on the PGA Tour by winning two tournaments 10 years later as a rookie on the pro golf circuit. He won the prestigious Colonial National Invitation in Fort Worth, TX in the spring of 1987 with a 14 under par 266, which tied the tournament record set by Corey Pavin. Later that season he also won the Centel Classic. He played many years on the PGA Tour and more recently on the Champions Tour.

He announced himself at Northgate by becoming medalist at the DVAL league championships as a sophomore. After graduation, Clearwater went to BYU and was a two-time all-American, helping the Cougars to the 1981 NCAA championship in his junior year when he was named first team all-America. It is the only national golf title for the Cougars. During his tenure at BYU, his teammates included future pro golfers (and all members with Clearwater now on the Champions Tour) Rick FehrRichard Zokol and Bobby Clampett, another Northern Californian. In his senior year, he was second team all-America. He turned pro in 1982 and joined the PGA Tour in 1987.

Doug Davis, class of 1993, was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers right after graduating but didn’t sign and instead played baseball at DVC and CCSF. He was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 1996 draft and debuted for them three years later.

During his 13-year MLB career the southpaw battled injuries. He won over 25 games each for the Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks while starting all but 20 of his 308 appearances on the mound. He was the winning pitcher for the D-backs over the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the 2007 National League Division Series. He last pitched in the majors for the Cubs in 2011.

Natalie Marie Nelson grew up in Concord playing numerous sports like her three older brothers. At Northgate she decided soccer was her sport and was a standout forward for the Broncos before injuring her ankle during her 2002 senior year. She continued to play after graduation at DVC before transferring to Arizona State, where she stopped playing the sport. After college graduation she pursued an acting and modeling career in Los Angeles.

She answered a casting call from the WWE and after a successful month-long tryout, she adopted the name Eva Marie, dyed her natural brown hair bright red and became a WWE Diva (and a superstar heel in the eyes of most wrestling fans). She is introduced entering the WWE ring as “From Concord, California comes…”

Since retiring from the mat in August 2017 she continues to be a celebrity endorser, appear in movies and TV programs such as “Celebrity Big Brother,” has her own sunglasses line NEM Fashion and this year launched the Natalie Eva Marie x Ryderwear collection. Read about her newest business endeavor.

This month, rumors have circulated about Eva Marie returning to WWE.

Eva Marie is very popular on social media with 4.4 million followers for her Instagram page, 628,000 likes on Facebook, 924,000 followers on Twitter and 115,000 subscribers for her YouTube channel.

North Coast Section championship teams

Other schools covered in this series

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