A few times interviewing the Diaz brothers, they have asked what local athlete has done as much as they have. So talking to Larry Bohannan, we were trying to figure out the top professional athletes to come out of the Valley. The key is, they have to be raised here for some level.
So someone like golfer Anthony Kim, who won three times on the PGA Tour and was a Ryder Cup hero, is a little iffy since he only played two years at La Quinta High School. And although Mr. 59 Al Geiberger and former baseball MVPs Don Baylor and Steve Garvey live here, they weren’t raised here.
AT THE TOP: Football player Ed White of Indio and Cathedral City boxer Timothy Bradley. White was an All-American at Cal and played in four Super Bowls with the Minnesota Vikings. The Indio High School football stadium is named after White. Bradley is one of the 10 best boxers in the world right now, and won three major titles. Bradley’s status could grow even more if he does secure his dream fight against Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather.
IMPACT CAREERS: After Bradley and White, Antonio and Julio Diaz have to weigh in there. Antonio Diaz fought some big fights in his day, with the pinacle being his Micky Ward victory. Ward was the subject of the Oscar-nominated film “The Fighter.” Antonio also fought in Vegas and Madison Square Garden. He also gets an edge because his success put the Coachella Valley on the boxing map. In the ring, Julio’s career surpassed Antonio’s in that he was the first world champion from the Coachella Valley and twice won the IBF title. Julio didn’t fight the superstars that Antonio fought, but a world title is a world title. Together, with brother Joel, the three Diaz brothers created a whole boxing industry in the East Valley, which is becoming a hotbed of talent.
TOP, BUT NOT ELITE, CAREERS: Nicole Castrale, a Palm Desert High School product, is the best female golfer this area has produced. Yes, there have been a ton of Hall of Famers who live her, but weren’t raised here. Castrale won one LPGA event and was on two Solheim Cup teams. She still has a lot of golf in her career, but well behind the Diaz brothers. We also can’t forget another golfer in Jack Renner, a Palm Springs High School product who won three PGA titles in the 70s and 80s.
EXCELLENCE OUTSIDE THE ARENAS: Now there are two other Coachella Valley products who have had success, not as an athlete, but as executives that should be mentioned. Indio product Tony Reagins is the general manager of the Los Angeles Angels and one of the most respected executives in baseball. Another is Palm Springs High School alumnus Ken Solomon, the CEO of The Tennis Channel. Solomon has a very extensive career in the entertainment industry, so the Tennis Channel is one of many accomplishments in Solomon’s career. But the Tennis Channel has been a huge impact on the sport in providing expanded coverage of tournaments.