When it comes to baseball, Dave Meliah, JC Biagi and Cesar Lopez have a lot in common.
But playing together on the same team is not one of the parallels.
They're all products of coach Kim Cox's baseball program at DeSales High School, and between them they helped the Irish win 11 Class B state championships. But each is separated by five graduation classes.
Meliah, who turns 35 in March, graduated from DeSales in 1995. Biagi, now 31, is a 2000 Irish grad. And Lopez, who recently celebrated his 25th birthday, earned his high school diploma at DeSales in 2005.
All three began their collegiate baseball careers at Walla Walla Community College where they enjoyed two years of success.
Meliah transferred to the University of San Francisco for two seasons, then spent six years in the Texas Rangers minor league system. Biagi completed his collegiate career at Centennary College in Shreveport, La. And Lopez played his final two seasons of college baseball at Western Oregon University in Monmouth.
Now they're all back in Walla Walla and doing what they never had the opportunity to do as players - coaching baseball together.
Meliah is in his third season as the head coach at Walla Walla Community College after serving as a Warriors assistant coach for five seasons. Biagi is in his fifth season as a WWCC assistant coach, and Lopez was added to the coaching staff last fall.
When summer rolls around, Biagi will begin his third season as the manager of the Walla Walla Sweets collegiate wood-bat entry in the West Coast League. Meliah and Lopez are two of Biagi's assistant coaches, and Lopez also works for the Sweets during the off season.
"I'm obviously real proud of all three of those guys," said Cox, who has coached DeSales to 16 state championships in his 29 years in charge of the Irish baseball program.
"When you coach kids who grow up and are still involved with the game and are really good young men, excellent coaches, it gives you a sense of pride."
Not that Cox is surprised.
"I think that if I was to try and think of three guys who probably were the hardest workers, who respected the game of baseball the most out of all the very deserving players to be taken into account, those guys would easily be near the top of the list," Cox said.
As similar as their career paths seem to be, they were different players, Cox said.
"Dave was a quiet guy with a burning fire inside," Cox said of Meliah. "He was very competitive. As far as guys we have had here at DeSales, he went the furthest with his talent. And he did it because of a pure love of baseball.
"Cesar had a lot of the same qualities that Dave had," Cox said of Lopez. "He really wanted to be good and was willing to spend extra hours working on his infield skills to reach his goal of being a better player. There are a lot of people around here who would say he is one of the best middle infielders to be around here.
"JC's biggest asset was his arm and his ability to pitch," Cox said of Biagi. "He was the strongest pitcher of the three and still holds most of our school records. And he's not quiet like the other two. He has a competitive fire, and he doesn't hold a whole lot inside."
When Meliah played his final game at DeSales, the Irish were in the midst of winning seven consecutive state titles. Likewise, Lopez's senior year marked year No. 6 in DeSales' second seven-year state championship run.
Biagi played on DeSales state championship teams as a freshman, sophomore and senior, but in his junior year the Irish lost to La Conner in the state semifinals. Meliah and Lopez never let him forget.
"We give him a hard time about that," Meliah admitted.
"We bring it up. We remind him of our four state titles," Lopez concurred.
"I just remind them that I've got three (titles) in football, too," Biagi is quick to respond. "Those guys can't say that."
Biagi quarterbacked DeSales to a state championship in 1999 and was a member of Irish's state title teams in '97 and '98. Meliah was a freshman when DeSales won state in 1991, but the Irish failed to make it back to the finals during his final three years. Lopez played football as a freshman and a senior, and DeSales lost in the state finals both of those years.
Meliah, who made it as far as the Class AAA Pacific Coast League during his playing career on the strength of his ability to hit, is the primary hitting coach at WWCC during the spring. Biagi's chief responsibility is the Warriors pitchers and Lopez's focus is the infielders.
Biagi's bat kept him in the lineup when he wasn't pitching during his playing days, and he takes on more of the offensive coaching duties during the summer Sweets season, with Meliah and Lopez in support roles.
Although the decision making belongs to Meliah in the spring and to Biagi in the summer, the three coaches are in constant communication during games and readily listen to one another.
"We definitely talk," Meliah said. "The head guy has an idea of what he wants to do, but he wants reassurance from his assistants. You want them to voice their opinions, and sometimes you change your mind based on what they tell you.
"But ultimately, it's the head coach who makes the decision."
As the senior member of the trio, Meliah also had the opportunity to coach both Biagi and Lopez during their time at the community college.
"JC, as a player, he was just tough, just a bulldog mentality," Meliah recalled of Biagi. "And he was going to come after you with that toughness. And he was also one of those guys who could play Division I baseball as a pitcher and as a hitter, so he has that on his resume.
"Cesar, defensively, was the best," Meliah said of Lopez. "He was probably the best defensive shortstop that has ever been at the community college. It would be hard pressed to find one better."
And the tie that binds the three together is Cox and their baseball years at DeSales.
"We have that little connection," Lopez said. "It's a mind set. We'll be thinking the same thing without saying it. And then one of us will speak up, and we'll all shake our heads as if to say, ‘That's what I was thinking.'"
"It's a big family, coming through the same baseball program and being taught the same things," Meliah explained. "And not just baseball but life. We have the same values so it's easy to coach together. We say the same things to the guys and we are on the same page. Sometimes we even finish each others sentences."
"There is definitely a level of familiarity," Biagi said. "And it is something to be said that coach Cox has not only developed some good teams and good players over the years, but coaches are starting to emerge as well. He creates that appreciation of the game that brings us all down that road."