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He Pitched a Basketball Career Away

Scott Ostler

March 10, 1985|SCOTT OSTLER

"Maybe I shoulda just kept my mouth shut, but we were losing, and the guards weren't shooting. I was playing decent for him, not taking bad shots, and playing defense. He just wanted me to wait to take my turn, I guess."

Wulfemeyer didn't wait. He jumped the team halfway through the 1976-77 season and went back to baseball.

He tried picking up his hoops career again in '80-81 in Kansas, but once again--who can explain?--it didn't work out.

"He (the coach) ran the right type of offense for me," Wulfemeyer said. "He just played way too much defense."

Wulfemeyer thought about playing pro basketball in Europe. But he was 25 years old, by then, married, father of a young son.

"It was time to get down to business," he said. "She (Leslie, his wife) put up with a lot of stuff, she was tired of moving around, and I can't blame her. It was time for me to settle the life."

The Wulfemeyers returned to Orange County. Mark worked construction for a while, then got a job at the warehouse, where they like to hire ex-athletes with strong backs.

"It's good money, but you work for it," Wulfemeyer said.

He works the night shift, 8 p.m. till 4:30 a.m. Leslie, a former competitive skier, works for an Orange County magazine.

During the day, while Leslie is at work and his son is at preschool, Mark plays ball at the beach, shoots a round of golf--low 80s--or sits around the pool and Jacuzzi at his condo complex.

Next to the pool there is a concrete basketball court.

"I shoot every day, at least an hour," he says. "It helps take off my tensions."

He's 28 now, still in good shape at 6-2 and a solid 195. He talks about organizing a summer basketball camp for kids, a specialty camp that would provide intensive instruction in only one aspect of the game. Guess which aspect.

Wulfemeyer swears he never kicks himself for having taken all those wrong turns in his athletic life. That's behind him, and he tries to heed the advice John Wooden gave him over that dinner years ago.

"But I'd jump at the chance to play," Wulfemeyer said. "If someone called tomorrow, I'd be there."

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