Conejo Valley Little League has had hundreds of players advance to high school baseball, dozens continue on to play in college, and a select few enjoy careers in professional baseball. Nine CVLL players have made the Major Leagues, and two more are on the verge of making their debuts. Let’s meet those CVLL alumni:
Jett Bandy, Catcher, Milwaukee Brewers: Jett made his Major League debut with the Angels in 2016, winning the starting catching job and hitting 8 home runs over the last two months of the season. Jett, 27, played in CVLL from Peanuts in 1995 through Juniors in 2004. He went on to be named Ventura County Player of the Year as a Thousand Oaks High senior in 1998, played three years at the University of Arizona and signed with the Angels in 2001. Jett was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers this offseason and will be competing for the starting job.
Travis Shaw, 1B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers: Travis played the last two season with the Boston Red Sox, hitting 16 home runs with 71 RBIs in 2016. Travis, 27, played CVLL from 1999-2001 as a 9, 10 and 11-year old when his father, Jeff Shaw, was the closer for the Dodgers. Jeff Shaw said he was “blown away” by the talent in CVLL at that time, and Travis fit in well, playing CVLL All-Stars with Jett Bandy, Jeff Johnson, Chad Smith and other excellent players. Travis was traded by the Red Sox to the Brewers this offseason and will be reunited as a teammate with Jett Bandy this season.
Danny Muno, 3B/2B, Detroit Tigers: Danny broke into the Major Leagues with the New York Mets in 2015, playing third base while David Wright was on the disabled list. Danny spent 2016 in Triple-A with the White Sox and Marlins, and will attempt to get back to the big leagues this spring. Danny, 28, played CVLL from Peanut through Juniors from 1995 through 2003. He starred at Loyola HS, then led Fresno State to the 2008 College World Series title, batting leadoff and playing shortstop as a freshman. Danny’s father, Kevin, was a longtime coach in CVLL and helped develop the Conejo Creek Field with Mike Scioscia.
Chad Smith, Pitcher, Free Agent: Chad pitched for the Detroit Tigers in 2014 and the Texas Rangers in 2015, making 12 appearances in relief. Chad, 27, started in CVLL as a Peanut player in 1995 and was clearly the most advanced player in an age group that included many excellent future players. Chad continued in CVLL for several years, and his father, Denny, was a longtime board member instrumental in building the snack shack at Fiore Field. Two of Chad’s brothers also played CVLL and were umpires as well. Chad starred at Thousand Oaks High and at USC before being drafted by the Tigers.
Jeff Johnson, Pitcher, Cleveland Indians: Jeff spent the 2016 season pitching brilliantly for the Indians’ Triple-A team and is primed to make his Major League debut some time in 2017. Jeff, 27, played in CVLL from Peanuts in 1996 through Juniors in 2004, making All-Star teams at every level. Jeff starred at TOHS and went on to become the closer at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before being drafted by the Indians in 2001. Jeff bounced back from Tommy John surgery in 2013 to post a 1.05 ERA and notch 27 saves in Double-A in 2015. He was 4-1 with a 2.87 ERA for the American League champion’s Triple-A team in 2016.
Tyler Smith, Infielder, Seattle Mariners: Tyler spent the 2016 season playing every day with the Mariners’ Triple-A team at shortstop, second base and third base. Tyler, 25, played in CVLL from Peanuts in 1996 through Juniors in 2005. He played shortstop at TOHS and starred for four years at Oregon State before being drafted by the Mariners in the 8th round in 2013. Tyler’s father, Ron, coached in CVLL and played at Cal Lutheran. Tyler has batted .280 in four minor league seasons and is ready to step up to the big league level at some point in 2017.
Kurt Stillwell: Kurt played nine seasons in the Major Leagues, breaking in with the Cincinnati Reds at age 20 in 1986 after being the second player drafted overall out of Thousand Oaks High in 1983. Kurt played in CVLL from T-ball through Senior Majors throughout the 1970s. Kurt’s father, Ron, played in the Major Leagues and was the head coach at TOHS, Moorpark College and Cal Lutheran. Kurt’s older brother Scott and younger brother Rod were also excellent players, and Rod was head coach when TOHS won the CIF championship in 2003 and is back on the staff in 2017. Kurt is a sports agent working for Scott Boras.
Robert Fick: Robert played 10 years in the Major Leagues, breaking in with the Detroit Tigers in 1998 and playing for five big league teams. Robert played CVLL as a 13-15 year-old from 1987-1989 in the Senior Major Division. Robert starred at Newbury Park High and Ventura College before becoming an All-American catcher at Cal State Northridge in 1996. Robert was drafted in the fifth round by the Tigers and within two years made his big league debut. Robert hit the last home run ever at old Tiger Stadium. Robert worked as a Dodgers minor league batting coach the last two years and currently is a hitting coach at Fresno State.
Bryan Corey: Bryan pitched for five Major League teams, including the expansion Diamondbacks in 1998 and the World Series champion Red Sox in 2007. Bryan played CVLL from age 5 through 15 from 1980-89, and was center fielder on the 1989 Senior Division All-Star team that brought home CVLL’s first-even State Division championship flag. Bryan played shortstop at TOHS and Pierce College before being converted to the mound in the minors. In addition to his MLB career, Bryan pitched an astonishing 18 seasons in the minors, including stints in Japan, Korea and Mexico, pitching in nearly 800 games and finally retiring in 2012.
Tyler Johnson: Tyler pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2005 to 2007, and earned a championship ring as the left-handed bullpen specialist for the 2006 Cardinals that beat the Tigers in the World Series. Tyler played on the CVLL Big League World Championship team in 1998 and was named Most Outstanding Pitcher after throwing a complete-game victory in the United State championship game, then pitching the last 3 1/3 innings of the World Championship game against Venezuela, a 10-9 CVLL victory. Tyler played at Newbury Park High and Moorpark College, and currently heads the West Coast travel program.
Chuckie Fick: Chuckie pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros in 2012, appearing in 20 games. Chuckie played CVLL Juniors in 1998 and 1999. He went on to star at Newbury Park High School, Fresno State and Cal State Northridge before being drafted by the Cardinals in 2007. Chuckie pitched nine professional seasons, including stints in Mexico and Taiwan, before retiring in 2015 after suffering arm injuries. Chuckie, son of longtime MLB scout and coach Chuck Fick and the nephew of Robert Fick, is pitching coach for the Southern California Giants scout team and gives private lessons.
Andy Skeels: Andy is the minor league hitting coordinator for the San Francisco Giants, following a six-year minor league managing career in which he helped develop Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and many other Giants players that contributed to World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Andy played CVLL from T-ball through Senior Majors through the 1970s, and his brothers Mark and David did the same through the 1980s. All three Skeels brothers were standout catchers at TOHS, played at Division 1 universities and in professional baseball. Andy played 13 minor league seasons before becoming one of the most respected coaches in baseball.