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Sutherland Ready to Get Back to Business

As it did for all of us, the coronavirus pandemic came at an inopportune time for San Marino High School senior Andy Sutherland, cutting short the Titans’ varsity baseball season.
Truth be told, unless the pandemic had been confined to the middle of summer, Sutherland would have been caught at one point or another in one of the three sports in which he participates — not that there is a good time for a dangerous illness to strike.
Sutherland is one of the rare three-sport athletes, proficient in the three “majors”: football, basketball and baseball. During a conversation with him, it’s readily apparent the details matter less than the simple fact he is finally getting more opportunities to play sports rather than fewer. SMHS last week began workouts for its “Season 1” sports, and on Monday further loosened restrictions, though slightly.
“We were allowed to throw to receivers,” explained Sutherland, who is vying to be the starting quarterback. “We are still divided by position and working on individual skills, but it was nice to throw the ball to other people.”
Sutherland, the other quarterbacks in the program and their receivers must go through an elaborate sanitization process each time they throw a football, and for the time being they do not hand off the ball or mimic the act of blocking in order to maintain safe distancing. Considering the alternative, Sutherland sounded thrilled to tolerate a splash of hand sanitizer after every pass of the ball in exchange for the pleasure of throwing it.
“It totally, 100% beats not throwing to the receivers,” he exclaimed. “It’s going well, overall. We are being safe and doing more things than we were earlier, we are always building, and that is a good thing. We are learning our plays, and I am so happy to be out here.”
It’s not as though the football season just started. In fact, it really never stopped. The Titans have been involved in organized virtual training since August and their physical conditioning and weight training are still online. The San Marino Unified School District announced on March 13, that its campuses would be closed and distance learning would be initiated, thus ending all extracurricular activities and shuttering the spring sports season.
On July 20, the California Interscholastic Federation trumpeted its updated schedule for the 2020-21 school year that retained all previous sports but employs a two-season format that is scheduled to begin in December. The CIF’s new calendar postponed the beginning of the traditional fall season — Season 1 — to that month, with several sports being shuffled between seasons. The revised calendar sets the last day for regional or state football playoffs as April 17. The last day for all other rescheduled Season 1 sports will be sometime between March 20 and April 17. Winter sports, such as basketball, will be woven into spring sports, with regional or state playoffs ending June 19 with those offerings now designated as Season 2.
The typical athletic year contains three individual seasons, but the CIF chose to reduce the number to two and move some of the individual sports to accommodate the new arrangement. Season 1 will now include football, field hockey, gymnastics, boys’ and girls’ volleyball, and boys’ and girls’ water polo. The Season 2 lineup will feature baseball, softball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, badminton, boys’ and girls’ golf, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ tennis, boys’ and girls’ swimming, boys’ and girls’ track and field and boys’ and girls’ wrestling. Season 2 will begin in March. All of this matters to Sutherland, who will soon have some decisions to make.
Sutherland has played quarterback since his days in flag football at Huntington Middle School, where he helped continue a tradition of winning championships in both 7th and 8th grade. He started under center for the Titans’ freshman team in fall 2017 and San Marino continued to enjoy grid success, losing only to junior varsity teams except for freshman squads from powerhouses St. Francis and Los Altos. Sutherland was named offensive player of the year at the end of the season.
Things were going well his sophomore year until the sixth game of the season, when Sutherland suffered a sprained right shoulder, affecting the arm he uses to throw. Until that point, the Titan junior varsity squad had defeated Newport Harbor and Pasadena and had stayed on the field with a solid Northview squad during a narrow loss. Again, Sutherland was named offensive player of the year.
With then-senior Connor Short starting at quarterback last fall for the varsity, Sutherland switched to wide receiver and safety, enjoying a few snaps at quarterback during mop-up duty. On the other side of the connection for a change, Sutherland made eight catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. Currently, Sutherland is battling for the starting quarterback job with junior Niko Mavridis, who filled in last fall when Short was injured.
Sutherland’s athletic prowess isn’t contained to a single season. He is a board-banging forward on the basketball court and a fence-busting second baseman on the baseball diamond. He was a member of the Titans’ freshman basketball squad that won its own tournament for the first time in program history and tied for the Rio Hondo League championship. As a sophomore, Sutherland was the defensive player of the year for the junior varsity squad. As a junior, the 6-foot, 1-inch forward earned a reputation as a hard-working off-the-bench defender and rebounder.
A second baseman and outfielder, Sutherland was offensive player of the year after his freshman and sophomore seasons and was tearing the cover off the ball when the varsity campaign came to an abrupt end in March.
That respite hopefully closes for Sutherland and his teammates on Friday, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. when Crescenta Valley is scheduled to pay a visit to Titan Stadium for the season opener. Though that date has seemed far off since it was announced in June, football has been at the forefront.
“Coach [Justin] Mesa brings it up all the time,” Sutherland said, with a chuckle. “He starts each one of our Zoom weightlifting sessions by reminding us who we would have been playing had the season not been interrupted and, every Friday, tells us who we would have been playing that night. Every week, he says, ‘Put in the work now so you will be ready when the time comes.’”
In an era synonymous with stop, Sutherland is ready to go.
“When we were told that the baseball season was ending, I thought it might be for a couple weeks,” he explained. “It was weird sitting home and not playing baseball, but I felt terrible for the seniors who were missing their entire senior season. It was like we were living in a movie.”
He said the world of distance learning was initially “a struggle,” but credited SMHS’ teachers for their creativity.
“It was a tough adjustment to stay focused for five hours,” said Sutherland, who is typically surrounded by his peers but suddenly found himself “in front of my computer in my own house.”
He added, “More than any year, being a senior is about community and about being with your friends. In a way, I feel like I have already graduated from high school.”
That will all change if educators are able to stick to the current schedule and get moving after the first of the year.
Until then, Sutherland will stay “safe at home” with his mother, Kim; father, Ted; and twin brother, Charlie. Where Andy is the ultimate participant in athletics, Charlie is at least his equal on the stage as a valued member of the SMHS performing arts program.
Andy Sutherland has his eyes on a wide variety of colleges and hopes he could continue his baseball career at a couple of them. Until then, it’s more about getting back on the field than finding a new campus.
“It’s my senior year,” he said. “I really want to play. That is what senior year is all about. It would be a huge bummer if I have already played my final season.”
Other decisions await. Under the new format, Sutherland faces a possible conflict, as both basketball and baseball are contained within the same season and there exists no set policy on participation.
Sutherland has an answer.
“Let’s get one sport in and then worry about that call when it comes,” he said.

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