The Best in Orange County Sports of 2015

The Best in Orange County Sports of 2015
Kate Turning/OC Weekly

And y'all say we never write about sports!

See our full list of Best Of 2015 winners here!

Best Gun Range It's not often you use the words bullets and Brea in the same sentence. But within this relatively sleepy suburb is the most bangin' firing range around. Orange County Indoor Shooting Range is a fully renovated and top-of-the-line establishment for all your firing needs, whether you're a beginner or Dirty Harry. Carrying a full stock of 62 types of gun rentals (ammo, too!), as well as various stages of training classes and group discounts (two people can shoot for two hours for just $50), this place is all about giving you more bang for your buck (you know we had to use that, right?). 684 N. Berry St., Brea, CA 92821; 714-529-0300

Best Surf School This is about as close as you can get to the way surfing started--and in a less bro-tastic world--in OC. Located in a parking lot just to the north of the Seal Beach pier, M&M Surfing School isn't much more than a trailer parked in front of the sand, with boards on the side and a heap of wetsuits in all sizes. Run by Michael Pless and his son, Michael Jr., the school is licensed by the city and provides group and individual lessons for adults and kids. And the variety of breaks at the beach means that no matter what your skill level, there will be a wave with your name on it. M&M Surfing School, 802 Ocean Ave., Seal Beach, CA 90740; 714-846-7873

Best Golf Course You started playing as a kid, and during that stretch early in your career when you worked days and weekends, you were able to have golf courses all to yourself as you got your handicap down to the low teens. Then your work shift changed, family obligations piled up, and, late in your career, your annual salary was slashed. Nowadays, you have to save up for weeks before your yearly golf outing with Uncle Mark. Meanwhile, your out-of-date bag, clubs and deteriorating shoes mostly collect dust and occupy valuable garage space better suited for your stack of vintage Spy magazines. But before chucking them and haggling with yard-sale cheap asses--really, you talked me down to 12 bucks for a set of Wilsons and now want me to break a hundred?--give golf one last chance at beautiful Strawberry Farms in Irvine. Filled with blind tee shots, magnetic water hazards and tip-seeking attendants who clean your clubs without asking, Strawberry Farms makes disillusioned golfers right in the head when they finally decide to quit the silly game. Strawberry Farms Golf Club, 11 Strawberry Farms Road, Irvine, CA 92612; 949-551-1811

Best Coach In the fighting world, OC is known much more as a hotbed for jiu-jitsu than mixed martial arts (MMA). Not only are two of the biggest grappling tournaments in the world located in the area, but there are also world-class jiu-jitsu academies sprinkled throughout the county. That's only part of what makes Muay Thai coach (and general MMA game-planner) Master Rafael Cordeiro's success so impressive. The Brazilian is not only responsible for the success of multiple UFC champions and several other male UFC fighters, but he has also worked with some of the most feared women on the planet, such as Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino and Gabi Garcia. The leader of Kings MMA in Huntington Beach is known for getting the best out of his fighters, both physically and mentally, and with the near-flawless record of his fighters, his success in 2015 really can't be denied--isso! Master Rafael Cordeiro, 7391 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, CA 92647; 714-848-2525

Best Gym There's only one gym in the world right now that has two UFC champions, and that's Kings MMA in Huntington Beach. Aside from heavyweight boss Fabricio Werdum and lightweight champeen Rafael dos Anjos (as well as Invicta FC featherweight crownholder Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino), Kings also hosts mixed martial arts legends such as Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Wanderlei Silva. Run by expert Brazilian coach Master Rafael Cordeiro, Kings has become a destination for MMA training for fighters from all over the world, particularly among Brazilians. It's not just for professional fighters, though, as the classes for beginners, kids and those completely uninterested in combat sports are all taught by highly respected coaches. Kings MMA, 7391 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, CA 92647; 714-848-2525.


Rickett & Sones/OC Weekly
Rickett & Sones/OC Weekly
Rafael and Guilherme Mendes

Best Sports Comeback Story At the beginning of 2014, things looked pretty bleak for the Huntington Beach Bad Boy. He'd been released from the UFC after dropping six of seven fights, gone through a legendarily messy breakup with porn star Jenna Jameson, and been charged with a DUI. But the former UFC champion soon started turning things around, winning two fights and getting into a much healthier romantic relationship, with 2015 marking Ortiz's first title fight in nine years. Most of the MMA world had written off Ortiz years ago, almost constantly hounding the fighter to retire, but he's finally on the cusp of competing in a meaningful fight again. Tito Ortiz,

Best Martial Arts Studio Considering OC is known as one of the jiu-jitsu capitals of the world (particularly outside Brazil), it's hard to pick one among all the greats out there--but that's why we get the small bucks! The Costa Mesa dojo run by Brazilian jiu-jitsu legends Rafael and Guilherme Mendes is the kind of gym that high-level practitioners will travel to by plane just to visit for a day or two. The twins work with all levels, from kids trying on their first gi to men and women on their way to the Olympics. Want more information? Read our People Issue 2014 profile on them--Google it, and get us some Web hits! Art of Jiu Jitsu, 411 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627, 949-645-1679

Best Roller Derby Team You have never met a more badass group of kids. OC Roller Girls' junior derby team, the Slice Girls, have been tearing up the banked and flat tracks, as well as their opponents, since 2012. As a spectator at one of their bouts, you'll watch girls from 8 to 17 zip past, hip-check and expertly block one another, all while wondering how these tweens and teens are cooler than you. Their coaches push these derby girls to be their best and show excellent sportsmanship. The Katniss Everdeens and Tris Priors of the world could learn a thing or three from the Slice Girls. Slice Girls,

Best College Player An umpire shouting, "Ball four!" to Cal State Fullerton starting pitcher Thomas Eshelman happened only on the rarest of occasions. Throughout three seasons with the Titans, he walked batters just 17 times--yes, you read that right. As a freshman, Eshelman powered through 63 1/3 flawless innings before giving up his first walk--yes, you read that right, too! Armed with wicked accuracy better fitted for Nintendo's original Baseball than real ones, Eshelman excelled at the university's Goodwin Field during his last season with an impressive 1.89 ERA. The Titans seemed ready to return to College World Series glory behind their precise pitcher. Eshelman didn't disappoint, cruising through Vanderbilt batters in the series' opening game, putting the Titans up 3-0 against the defending champs. He was lightning on the mound when only Mother Nature could stop him in the form of a thunder storm that drenched the game in the sixth inning. Play resumed the next day, but the bullpen faltered, and Cal State Fullerton never recovered from losing to Vanderbilt. Chances are Eshelman will pick up where he left off when the rookie suits up for the Houston Astros. Thomas Eshelman, Cal State Fullerton Baseball Readers' Choice: Rebecca Wilson (Cal State Fullerton soccer)

Best Sportscaster The Ducks have nothing like a Bob Miller (voice of the Los Angeles Kings) in their TV or radio booths, and even David Vassegh, the energetic bunny who reports on the Dodgers on their flagship station, AM 570, is more interesting than those tongue-tied, sharp-as-a-hammer color analysts Tweedledum and Tweedledumber who stink up every Angels broadcast (good pitchers; suck-ass announcers). But we have a soft spot for play-by-play guy Terry Smith. Maybe it's because he's not Mark Langsuck or Mark Goobifuck, or that he joined the organization in 2002, which was kind of a big deal around these parts, or that he broadcast Ohio State University football for 14 years, or that he offers a very serviceable, professional broadcast that only occasionally veers into embarrassing homerism (unlike former radio partner Jose Mota, who really needs to get off Mike Scioscia's jock). Or maybe that he's not just one of those two numbnuts. Terry Smith


The Best in Orange County Sports of 2015
Janine Kahn/OC Weekly

Best Bowling The bowling-alley portion of the complex is relatively small, but it's well-designed with plush seating, color-coded bowling balls marked for weight and finger size, and giant projector screens that play sports and network TV. There's even an automated shoe-rental system--a shoe vending machine, if you will. Finally, it has a too-good-to-be-true happy hour: dirt-cheap beer prices from 6 to 11 p.m. during the week, the better to fuel the karaoke that can go from Neil Diamond to Vicente Fernández, with everyone knowing each song by heart. Round One Entertainment, 2800 N. Main St., Santa Ana, CA 92705; 714-619-6840

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Best Yoga This studio manages to shine in a county so full of yoga studios that you can't do warrior pose without kicking one. It's mostly due to Triad Yoga and Pilates' wholly unpretentious vibe. There's no section full of overpriced yoga merchandise, just a reception desk run by the instructors themselves and a bright, window-paneled studio. Instructors seem so drunk on their own zen you'll happily contort your body to replicate their natural high. Triad Yoga and Pilates, 5031 Birch St., Newport Beach, CA 92660; 949-281-6049.

Best Pole Fitness Truth be told, you'll likely enjoy yourself at any of the county's handful of pole-fitness studios. After all, you're shedding (literally) your inhibitions in rooms so dim that any lack of rhythm or dance flub is forgiven. Why choose Rhiannan Nichole's Premier Pole, then? Because the instructors won't quit until you get that spin or body inversion just right. There's a huge emphasis on proper form, something easily neglected at other such studios. You want to minimalize error when pressing your most sensitive body parts against cold, hard metal or supporting your entire body by gripping a skinny metal pole. Premier Pole's instructors go slow, tailoring each budding dancer's practice to his or her capability. Don't worry, they're not dictatorial. They're remarkably encouraging as they tell you to use the friction of your delicate thigh skin to slide down sloooowly. Rhiannan Nichole's Premier Pole, 22511 Aspan St., Lake Forest, CA 92630; 949-525-7197.

Best Secret Hiking Spot This is easily the dumbest category on this list because, obviously, if we tell you about it, IT WON'T BE A SECRET. So maybe you know about this one, maybe you don't, but it's not long, it's very easy, and the really secret hikes are where we grow our ganja, so leave us alone. It's part of Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, which features 30 miles' worth of trails. The Dripping Cave portion is less than a mile long but forks off Aliso Canyon trail and Wood Canyon trail, so you're looking at about 5 miles round-trip. It leads to--surprise!--Dripping Cave, also known as Robbers Cave, where legend has it thieves used to stash their plunder. Now they stow it in the Hall of Administration in Santa Ana.

Best High School Athletics We hate saying this because, sheesh, it's that school, but the private Catholic bastion in the heart of Santa Ana--which is one of the largest (with 2,100 students), wealthiest (tuition is $13.2K per year for Catholics, $14.6K for heretics) and insufferably full-of-itself schools in the county--is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to athletics (and pedophilia, but that's for our Scariest People issue). The boys' football and basketball, as well as girls' basketball, teams are perennial pains in the ass for everyone except the Orange County Register, which has developed a cottage industry of polishing bishops. But it's not just the big programs. The boy Monarchs finished in the top 10 in the Register's rankings (one thing that fish wrap does very well is keep tabs on high-school athletics), but also water polo (first), swimming, track and field, and volleyball. And the girls were top-ranked in basketball (as with the boys' squad, they made the state championship, only to lose) and top 10 in golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, track and field, volleyball, and water polo. Sure the rest of the county hates the school, but, dayum, you can't argue the facts. Mater Dei High School, 1202 W. Edinger Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92707.


The Best in Orange County Sports of 2015
Eric Hood/OC Weekly

Best Angels/Ducks Story This kid's a throwback. First, there's Johnny Giavatolla's size. At 5-foot-8 in high heels, he doesn't exactly cause an opposing pitcher's sphincter to clench. But when you consider such baseball legends as Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Mel Ott, Pee Wee Reese (duh) and "Wee" Willie Keeler (double duh) were that height or shorter, screw it. Then there's his style of play: scrappy and energetic. But, really, it's the name: Gia-va-toll-uh. The Italian-American pedigree in baseball is a fine one. Camilli, Amalfitano, Fanzone, Mazilli--and while most of those names sound like families duking it out with the Corleones on the streets of New York in the 1950s, there's also this guy: DiMaggio. We're not saying Giavatolla has Joltin' Joe's upside, but after sticking him in the bottom third of the lineup for most of the season, Mike Scioscia put him in the leadoff role on June 28, and the Angels rattled off a 15-3 record. And the second sacker probably also makes a killer pizza pie. Johnny Giavatolla

Best Angels Player Angels slugger Albert Pujols seemed destined for powerless plate appearances after another sluggish start. Fans sighed, sportswriters eulogized his prime, but manager Mike Scioscia didn't panic. He saw something different in his player's swing, even if the stats didn't back it up. Suddenly, whimpering whiffs in April turned into thunderous thwacks come June. Tying a club record, Pujols' bat resurrected from the dead, launching 13 mighty home runs into the stands that month alone. It was a return to form that had Anaheim celebrating another World Series before the ink dried on his contract signing four years ago. The 35-year-old Pujols returned to first base during the All-Star game, ending a four-year hiatus from the midseason celebration, and finished with 40 homers for the first time since 2010. Albert Pujols Readers' Choice: Mike Trout

Best Boot Camp It seems masochistic to pay money to experience the pain of a hardcore workout. But once you've made it through a 45-minute session at No Limit Boot Camp, you realize the feeling of finishing it is worth every penny. Rope-waving and kettle-bell-wielding action await you at this top-notch facility in Placentia, where instructors drill you up to seven days per week on strength, speed, agility and endurance. Most important, No Limit teaches you about respect for yourself and others in the class who are all going through the same pain you are. There's no question you'll want to bond with one another over your soreness while sipping protein shakes after it's all over. No Limit Boot Camp, 980 S. Via Rodeo, Placentia, CA 92870; 714-342-0418.

Best Ducks Player Oh, there you are, Corey Perry. Everybody not wearing something with an Anaheim logo hates our beloved right winger, but they're just jealous: With 33 regular-season goals for a shooting percentage of 17.10, nobody wants to face him on the ice. And after crawling off the ice following a wicked hit to the knee from Calgary's Matt Stajan in Game 5 of the second round of the playoffs, Perry shook it off, came back in the third period and scored the winning goal in overtime. Take that, FIFA. Corey Perry Readers' Choice: Teemu Selänne

Best Place to Play Pool It isn't located near anything of note, but Danny K's Billiards & Sports Bar doesn't have to be; people come to it. It's a pool hall, but it's all things to all people. If you're a pool shark, you come for the tournaments. If you're a newbie, you come because you can learn without being stared down by the pool sharks. And if you're anywhere nearby when the whistle blows, you come for happy hour and to watch sports on any of the four dozen or so TV screens. There are a couple of dozen beer taps, a few dozen more bottles, wine and liquor, and the usual set of bar food: sandwiches, burgers, fried salty snacks and chicks ready to go home with the guys who know how to use their sticks. Danny K's Billiards & Sports Bar, 1096 N. Main St., Orange, CA 92867; 714-771-9706.

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