A senior this upcoming season, Powers is heading to a program that he has grown familiar with throughout his high school career.
By Jordan Green
Chantz Powers attended an Azusa Pacific University (APU) baseball game for the first time in middle school. A baseball player for, what he referenced, “as long as I can remember,” he had been playing travel club baseball at the time. Of course, when playing under those circumstances, young players are often asked to play multiple positions throughout a season. However, Powers was in love with pitching, which is why he was attached to Josh Staumont.
Staumont is currently a relief pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, where he is known for his intimidating fastball which oftentimes reached 100 mph or more in 2020. Before his professional career, though, he played for APU, striking out 198 batters in just two full seasons with the program.
Powers watched Staumont pitch and immediately wanted to replicate what he brought to the mound: the intensity, the velocity, the command — all of it. And all of it was possible to achieve through hard work and persistence, including the APU tradition that Staumont played collegiate baseball in. He wanted to be a Cougar from that point on.
“I had grown up hearing about APU’s program once I moved to Monrovia when I was about six. Hearing about their team and the culture made APU a top choice for me. But when I saw Josh pitch, I knew that I needed to go to APU to play collegiate ball,” Powers recounts.
In November of 2020, that dream became a reality when he verbally committed to Azusa Pacific’s program. Yet, he learned how to mimic Staumont as a player during his high school years — playing for Brad Blackmore and Monrovia High’s (MHS) program.
His talent was immediately apparent to Blackmore and the Wildcats coaching staff. Following his tryout and three games for the freshman team, he was called up to varsity. It was the moment he realized that he had the skill to be a top pitcher in the San Gabriel Valley, especially considering that the 2018 squad had 15 seniors on that roster, all players Powers had watched from the stands a year before.
“It was sort of like looking up to an MLB player,” Powers said about his varsity teammates. “I watched them and thought ‘Wow, it’d be cool to play with those guys.’ And once I realized that I was getting the chance to do that, it was just a really rewarding feeling.”
He learned how to compete for a team that played “old school” baseball. Blackmore molded his players to be smart at the plate and on base, working to play small ball by dragging bunts, stealing bases and functioning through hit-and-run situations. This benefited Powers tremendously while on the mound, teaching the young pitcher how to adapt to that style of play.
His career numbers at MHS are evidence of that development. While his junior year was cut short to only three starts on the mound, in 27 career appearances Powers holds a cumulative 1.98 ERA along with 46 total strikeouts and an impressive .230 opponent’s batting average. At the plate, he proved to be just as effective batting a .359 in 78 plate appearances. Yet Powers credits his stat sheet for competing in a program that is “full of heart.”
“For Coach [Blackmore] and that team, it was never about who has the fastest fastball or the most strikeouts. At the end of the day, it was always about who was going to do the right job to get us the win for that specific day. That’s just how the coaching staff looked at it,” he said.
The senior is set to play one final season with the Wildcats, as high school baseball is now cleared to begin playing once more thanks to regulations made by L.A. County in February. While most programs have practiced for several weeks, seasons under the CIF-SS bubble — which Monrovia is in — are cleared to begin their season by mid-March.
Nevertheless, he can’t help but look forward to his next step with APU. Although he was unable to secure an official campus visit due to COVID-19 protocol, the culture of Azusa Pacific is something he knows well. And during a time when scholarships are more scarce than ever before, he feels that his faith has led him to the most desirable of situations.
“It’s been a difficult process, and it was very hard to get seen and recognized by NCAA programs. But that’s what makes me feel even more grateful,” he said. “APU is the perfect fit for me. I’ve put all my faith in God throughout this entire process, and knowing that I’m going to a school where God will always be the priority is very important to me.”
As for APU, the team’s excitement in adding a local player to their roster is equal to Powers’. Head coach Paul Svagdis, who has been at the helm since 2003, has been committed to bringing the best out of the former NAIA now NCAA-run program. Svagdis holds a win-loss record of 563-329 during those 17 seasons, including two births in the NAIA World Series in 2007 and ’08 and three straight PacWest titles in 2017-19.
Several of Svagdis’ players have continued to play baseball after their time with the university. Twenty-seven of Svagdis’ players have been drafted in the MLB Draft, and four have become starters at the professional level including longtime MLB catcher Stephen Vogt and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is currently an associate coach for the Cougars’ coaching staff.
Who knows? Perhaps Powers will be the next to add to that total when all is said and done.
“I’ve talked to Paul several times now, and there couldn’t be a better man coaching me,” Powers noted. “He’s all about his players, and he’s all about winning. His resume shows that and for me to be a part of what he’s trying to build over there, it’s just very exciting.”