Andrew Balentine and Hunter Arellano were front and center inside the Pitman High library on Thursday afternoon as they each signed their National Letters of Intent to continue their athletic and academic careers at the college level. Balentine, a left-handed-pitcher, will be heading to Fresno State while Arellano, a catcher, will attend York University in Nebraska.
The two have known each other and have been close friends since elementary school. They explained that signing their letters of intent beside each other during the same ceremony was special and important to them.
“Me and AB (Balentine) have been together since kindergarten, so it’s a great experience to sign with a good friend like him,” Arellano said. “We wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Balentine shared similar sentiments, reflecting on their journey together while looking out and commenting on the large crowd of family and friends on hand to celebrate their signings.
“Me and Hunter knowing each other since we were that young, just seeing our families, teammates, our coaches, they’re the reason we got here, so it just feels amazing to see everyone that has supported us growing up,” Balentine said.
Last season, with the opportunity to play at the varsity level for the very first time, Balentine made 12 pitching appearances, tossing 47 2/3 innings. He made a significant impact for the Pride on their way to a share of the Central California Athletic League title as he fired 62 strikeouts and maintained a 2.35 ERA enroute to an undefeated 6-0 record.
Arellano also made his varsity debut last season, making his presence known throughout the Pride’s league title run with stellar defense behind the plate. In six games, he had a perfect fielding percentage, accumulating 24 putouts in 26 chances and two assists.
For Balentine, he was first noticed by Fresno State assistant coach Greg Gonzalez in the summer of 2021, who invited him to visit. Upon walking the halls of the Fresno State campus, he knew immediately that he was destined to be a member of the historic Bulldog program, which has produced over 50 Major League players and countless other professional ballplayers.
“When I was there, the environment was just amazing,” Balentine said. “They’re a program that develops players like Aaron Judge. They care about you and they know what they’re talking about. And even the varsity guys, the guys who are seniors, they were just so welcoming and were hanging out with me… Being a Valley guy and always hearing about Fresno and going to Fresno games, it all just feels so amazing.”
Meanwhile, Arellano popped up on the radar of the folks at York University during his sophomore year with the Pride. He explained that he had family members familiar with the institution, and after paying a visit to the campus and working out for some of their coaches, he felt that it could be a perfect fit.
“The people over there are so nice and very supportive,” he said. “Back there, there is so much good talent and competition, so I feel I’ll grow so much as a player in a program like theirs.”
As seniors, the duo will look to build on last season’s accomplishments while also trying to defend the CCAL crown. The Pride season is expected to get underway in February.