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LIVING IN A Celebrity World : Now, Adam Ging Tries to Make Name for Himself

April 06, 1985|SARAH SMITH | Times Staff Writer

Few college baseball players, or others for that matter, had a childhood like that of UC Irvine's Adam Ging.

But then few people had fathers like Jack Ging. Commonly described as a character actor, Ging could just as well be called, simply, a character.

Jack Ging has had various identities, each of which has left its peculiar mark on his son, among them University of Oklahoma football player, single parent, nightclub owner, Crosby golf tournament winner, Clint Eastwood Celebrity Tennis tournament champion, Malibu real estate salesman, and currently, Lt. Quinlan on NBC's "Riptide."

Weekend days in Adam Ging's unorthodox boyhood began at 6:45 a.m. on the glistening grass of some country club, where Jack Ging routinely competed for sport and money. His opponents were such golfers as Dean Martin and James Garner--and others whose bank accounts were much bigger than their names.

Tagging along, the precocious youngster picked up the lessons of that game--and those of other adult games.

"He knew how to conduct himself around big-time gamblers," Jack Ging said. "He could read a football sheet when he was 8 years old. And he always kept his mouth shut.

"One time I was out there with Dean Martin and some others at the Riviera Country Club. Adam was about 8.

"The round came down to one shot with thousands of dollars on the line. I explained to Adam, 'These guys are trying to take money out of my pocket. It's the same as if they were trying to take milk out of our refrigerator.' Then I blew this sand shot.

"Adam came over to me and said, 'It's all right, Dad. I don't like milk, anyway.' "

On other days, Adam Ging hung around television and movie sets, watching the filming of such shows as Mannix, Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, and Starsky and Hutch.

"My dad was always the bad guy," he said. "He's one of those actors whose face you recognize, but you don't know the name."

In the last three years, however, the pattern has turned around.

Now it is Jack Ging's turn to observe his son's performances. He spends many afternoons in the stands of Irvine's Anteater Stadium, watching Adam, one of the best baseball players in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.

The 21-year-old player's talent rates four stars in Jack Ging's book, but, of course, that's a father doing the reviewing. The real tipoff is that the pro scouts seem to agree. Barring injury, Ging will probably be a pro draft choice this June as a junior.

The Anteater shortstop is batting .375 with six doubles and six triples this season. A switch-hitter with equal power from either side of the plate, he is 10th in the nation in triples. Even though he has not hit a home run this season, he is fifth on UCI's all-time list with 12. He hit seven of those last season as a sophomore.

How much power does he have?

Plenty, Irvine Coach Mike Gerakos can assure, although he wishes he hadn't had to learn that first-hand. Gerakos had to be treated for a cracked rib last month after one of Ging's line drives nailed him while he was pitching batting practice.

"He probably got a big chuckle out of it," Gerakos said dryly. Nonetheless, Gerakos, the Anteater coach for five years, calls Ging the best power hitter he has ever coached.

Ging demonstrated his power by becoming one of an elite group of Irvine players who have hit homers over the stadium scoreboard in right field. The scoreboard is a campus landmark, decorated with a 25-foot-long anteater whose tongue is about 15 feet long.

Right above runs and hits on that scoreboard, and at the tip of the remarkable tongue, is the word Zot!, which UCI students recognize as the sound of their mascot scoring a meal.

Big, funny insectivores were not exactly part of the college atmosphere that Jack Ging had in mind for his only son. When Adam graduated as an honor student and baseball star from Los Angeles' Loyola High School in 1982, Jack, who had grown up poor in Alva, Okla., entertained visions of his son hitting the books and the baseballs in the Ivy League.

"He was admitted at Stanford and Dartmouth," Jack Ging said. "But he didn't want any part of that."

Instead, Adam came home to Malibu one day and announced, "Dad, I've found the man I want to play for." It was Gerakos. Adam admired him for "telling it like it was."

Jack Ging's reaction was measureable on the Richter scale.

"I said, 'Irvine? Where the hell is that?' " Ging said.

"Then he said they were the Anteaters. I said, 'The Anteaters! That's the worst name I've ever heard!' " Adam tactfully neglected to mention that his father is a former Alva High Goldbug.

But Adam was certain he had made a wise choice. He didn't care about the lack of Division I tradition of Irvine's young baseball program. Its other advantages were immediately apparent to him.

As a freshman, he was the starting third baseman on the UCI team that finished third in the Southern California Baseball Assn. in 1983. As a sophomore, he was the second-team all-conference shortstop.

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