Bella a leader for Newport Harbor softball

Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week

Sophomore catcher, who helped Sailors win La Quinta Tournament, has game to match her name.

April 08, 2011|By Matt Szabo,
  • Newport Harbor's Bella Secaira is the Athlete of the Week.
Newport Harbor's Bella Secaira is the Athlete of… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Bella Secaira had played softball before.

But the moment she said she really became a softball player was when she first set foot in the place she simply calls "the warehouse."

Secaira saw the three batting cages at Softball Connection in Huntington Beach. She met Tony Rico, a hitting coach she referred to as her Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid."

Rico hasn't taught Secaira how to "wax on, wax off," or how to catch flies with a chopstick since that meeting about five years ago. He helped teach her hitting and also did something far more valuable for Secaira, the Newport Harbor High sophomore catcher.

"He switched softball for me," Secaira said. "Instead of being a hobby, it's making it a career and actually going to college for it. That was the best time, because it really opened my eyes. If I keep working hard and I give it my all, I can go to college for it, or maybe be on the Junior Olympic team like some of my friends are."


The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week earns the honor for helping lead the Sailors to the La Quinta Tournament championship. In the championship game, a 3-1 victory over host La Quinta on March 30, Secaira, the cleanup hitter, was two for two with a double and drove in all three runs.

There was more than the offensive performance, although Secaira is batting around .600 this season for Newport Harbor. There was the game she called behind the plate for Coach Tony Qualin, mixing up pitches and speeds effectively with her battery mate, sophomore pitcher Hattie Marshall.

Similarly, she wants there to be more to the Sailors' season than just preseason accolades. She wants Newport Harbor (13-6) to make a mark in the Sunset League.

Secaira, one of two captains with sophomore second baseman Lauren Gandi, was a captain last year as a freshman as well. She's not afraid to say what's on her mind.

What she says carries weight. Her full first name is Gabriella, but she goes by "Bella," which means "beautiful" in Spanish and Italian. She has the game to match.

Secaira, who plays for an 18-and-under team in the Firecrackers travel-ball club ran by Rico, was a first-team All-Sunset League selection last year. Also last year, she was named one of the top 10 freshmen in Orange County by Marina High assistant coach Jen Schroeder, the former Esperanza and UCLA star who has worked with Secaira at Softball Connection.

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