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Off-Season: a Paradise for Angels

February 15, 1985|PAT MOTT

Every October one of the most visible and profitable businesses in America shuts down and temporarily lays off several hundred of its most talented team players.

And when that business--major league baseball--stops, those players face what can be a startling change of pace. For nearly eight months each year, their lives are defined and measured in seconds and inches. (How quickly does a 90-m.p.h. fastball get to the plate? Would it have been in his glove if he could have jumped just a bit higher?)

Then suddenly the season ends, and they are thinking not what they must do this second, but this week. The pace decelerates. The bags get unpacked. The uniform goes into the locker. The airport schedules get filed away.

For California Angels players Ken Forsch, Doug De Cinces and Tommy John--all veteran major leaguers--the sudden finish of the season means an abrupt adjustment to what all three refer to as a "more normal life."

Ken Forsch has had many years to get used to the October homecomings. Forsch, 38, has been a major league starting pitcher for 14 years, the last four of those with the Angels. During one of the early games of 1984, he suffered a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for the remainder of the season, but he says he has recovered and feels strong and ready to return to spring training this year.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------- 'Stephanie was screaming for Reggie to hit a home run.' cf,ux,8.5 Ken Forsch


His off-season refuge is a large Country French-style house in Anaheim Hills, where he lives with his wife, Jonnye, and his 10-year-old daughter, Stephanie.

'A Homebody'

"I'm pretty much of a homebody," he says. "It's probably hard on Jonnye sometimes, but I often just don't like to do anything. The long plane rides and the hotels and the constant movement and the constant crowds--that's what I like to get away from the most. That constant bombardment."

"The first month of the off-season, we try to relax, but it's hard for him," says Jonnye. "He really needs that time to recuperate from the season. During the season, everyone wants the players--even on their off days. Ken just wants to hide on those days."

While the off-season for most players extends from early October to mid-February, Forsch said the modern ballplayer knows that "you really only have about a month off."

"You have to stay in shape. You can't afford to get out of condition in the off-season. So the players work out regularly. I go to the ballpark three times a week, for therapy and to work out. And any trips the family takes are scheduled around those workouts because I've really needed that therapy."

Plays Tennis

But Forsch does get away. He plays tennis, hunts with both a rifle and a bow, and is taking up fly fishing. And the Forsches see their friends more frequently in the off-season months.

"It's nice when Ken's home because we can see those people and go out with them at night," says Jonnye. "There's time to do that. When we first moved here after Ken was traded from Houston, it was a very hard adjustment, especially for me, because we'd left a lot of friends and culture behind in Houston. Now things are beginning to happen for us here."

While Forsch enjoys the solitude the off-season brings, he is quick to add that he does not spend his time simply working out and staying temporarily out of the limelight. He has spent previous off-seasons working in the loan department of a Houston bank and obtaining a license to sell life insurance. And he is now attending real estate classes.

"It's all good experience," he says. "As hectic as the season may have been, I just can't sit around."

Wife's Role at Home

Jonnye does not hold a job outside the home. "It's almost impossible for a player's wife to work and still see her husband at all," she says.

"Besides," adds Forsch, smiling, "we've got it worked out. I said I'd work the first 15 years, and she'd work the next 15."

Stephanie Forsch attends a year-round school that offers frequent vacations.

"She'll have two or three weeks off at a time," says Forsch, "and that lets us all go on trips together and see each other more often. When I'm on the road, she says she misses me, but I think she's become conditioned to my being gone during the season."

Her favorite player, he says, is Reggie Jackson.

"When I was with Houston and Reggie was with the Yankees," says Forsch with a large grin, "I was pitching against him one time, and Jonnye and Stephanie were at the park, and Stephanie was screaming for Reggie to hit a home run. Jonnye had a little word with her about family loyalty."

But even Jonnye Forsch at one time was ready to root against Ken.

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