In sports, gold is the color of choice. Winning a gold medal is what all athletes dream about, but what only a select few actually achieve. In 2018, there were nearly a half million high school baseball players in the United States. From those, twenty of the most elite players in the country were chosen to represent Team USA and compete for gold. Orange Lutheran’s Max Rajcic was among them.
Rajcic, Class of 2020, was one of only two players from California selected for the U.S. National Team to compete in the 2018 COPABE U-18 Pan-American Championships. For Rajcic, it was an honor to be chosen.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to make Team USA. It was always a goal of mine,” says Rajcic. He is in good company. Current major league players Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, and Justin Upton all wore the USA jersey as 18U players.
Team USA traveled to Panama to compete. Teams from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, and other international powerhouses were all there going for gold. Team USA was hoping to capture its fifth consecutive Pan-American Championship – and it did not disappoint. In the championship game, Team USA defeated Panama 17-2 and brought home the gold.
Rajcic was an integral part of Team USA’s success. During the tournament, he made four appearances out of the bullpen and did not allow a single hit in 5.2 innings. He had eight strikeouts and finished the tournament with a 1.59 ERA.
One of the high points of the tournament for Rajcic was pitching against the Dominican Republic. In 2.2 innings, he struck out five players. Other highlights, says Rajcic, were of course winning gold, as well as the celebratory and triumphant final dogpile.
Rajcic’s baseball journey began at the age of four when he first picked up a bat, and he has never put it down. He plays two positions: pitcher and shortstop. Does he have a preference? Rajcic says, “Although I am probably a better pitcher, I like playing shortstop because I can hit more often.”
After graduating from Orange Lutheran next year, Rajcic will play for UCLA, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the country. Rajcic committed as a freshman, saying that “UCLA was my dream school.”
When asked who inspires Rajcic, he immediately points to his parents. “My mom is the hardest worker I know; she’s always there for me,” says Rajcic. When it comes to working hard, however, it sounds like the apple may not have fallen far from the tree. Gold medals are not given; they are earned.
The past year has been a big one for Rajcic. He was named Co-MVP of the Trinity League in 2018; he brought home the gold with Team USA in December; and Orange Lutheran recently secured the 2019 National High School Invitational (NHSI) championship for the third straight year. Rajcic was also awarded NHSI All-Tournament Team honors.
All in all, it seems pretty clear: the view from the mound for Max Rajcic is looking bright. In fact, some may even say pure gold.by Grace Funk '21