Often, it's a little spoke that makes Agoura High such a big wheel in 1-A soccer.
The spoke is 5-1, 115-pound Jason Baim, who looks as if he should be tying knots and earning merit badges, not playing one of the world's roughest sports for the top-ranked team in the Southern Section.
One look at Baim during a game and you know immediately that either he is real small or the team's equipment manager has a weird sense of humor. The sleeves of his shirt are much too long, dangling down to his knuckles. The shirttail hangs far below his shorts. You would expect Bill Shoemaker to look like this if he mistakenly put on Manute Bol's uniform.
He has not scored a goal this season, but Baim does have six assists. Getting the ball to the right person is his goal, and suckering the other team is his method.
In a game of mostly larger players, Baim--sort of the Spud Webb of soccer--can get lost without anyone ever noticing. In the corners, Baim is devastating. His passing is superb and his right leg has the kick of a quarter horse. Two weeks ago, in the final game of the season against Calabasas, Baim took a shot on goal that nearly floored Coyotes' goalkeeper Dave Salzwedel.
But what's the deal with the uniform?
"I could have gotten a small, but it didn't fit my chest," Baim said. "I don't like tucking it in. I just like letting it hang down."
And how about the Jim McMahon-style hair?
"My brother influenced me," Baim said. "He got into punk and reggae a while ago. It started rubbing off on me."
"I love it," Agoura Coach Marc Berke said. "Coaches will look at our offense and think we're trying to hide him on the outside. But that's where everything happens on this team. They think 'we'll play off the short kid,' and he shuts them down."
Agoura (19-1-2) will play Elsinore at home Tuesday in the semifinals of the conference playoffs.