When teams from the CIF's City and Southern sections meet on the baseball field, little more than pride is at stake.
The outcome doesn't affect league standings or playoff positions.
It's only a game.
Or is it?
City teams don't count non-league games on their records. They call practice games "scrimmages" and, technically, they're not even supposed to keep score.
A Southern Section team counts all non-league games in its overall record and season statistics.
Jim Cheffers, director of City athletics, said baseball teams play more league games than any other sport, so its nonleague schedule is limited. In baseball, City teams play each other three times.
"Administrators say that baseball is too expensive for what they get out of it," Cheffers said. "There are the umpires to pay, and the baseballs don't last as long as basketballs or footballs. Cutting out the non-league games is a cost-cutting measure."
But does it really save money? Not when a City Section team plays a Southern Section team.
Since the City schools aren't allowed to pay for an umpire, the Southern Section team is usually the home team.
Therefore, City teams save about $90 for three umpires--two for the varsity and one for the junior varsity--but almost negate their savings in travel expenses.
It costs the school district about $75 to take a bus load of baseball players to a game and back, according to Bud Dunevant, the City's transportation director.
Listing a game as "unofficial" doesn't save any baseballs, either.
"It doesn't make sense," said Darryl Stroh, Granada Hills coach. "If it counts for them, it should count for us."
Stroh's feelings were echoed by Doug MacKenzie, who has been the baseball coach at Canoga Park for 36 years.
"I would rather play games that counted," MacKenzie said. "You set a better, more competitive, atmosphere that way. The way it is now, if a player has a bad scrimmage, his attitude is, 'Well, it was only a scrimmage, coach.' "
Some coaches encourage that kind of thinking by substituting freely and sometimes using more than one designated hitter.
"A guy could have 14 stolen bases in a game because sometimes I use the same pinch-runner over and over," MacKenzie said. "We want a guy who might be coming off the bench during league in that situation to have as much experience as possible."
Last season, Simi Valley defeated Canoga Park 32-4 in a non-league game. One reason the score was so lopsided: Canoga had used its top pitcher, Keith Barton, the day before against Calabasas.
MacKenzie chose to pitch his infielders against a powerful Simi Valley lineup, so the result was predictable.
Mike Scyphers, Simi Valley's coach, who played for MacKenzie in high school, said he was not trying to run up the score.
"We used a lot of pitchers and played a lot of people, but there isn't a lot you can do in a situation like that," Scyphers said. "We have only 16 players, and three of them only pitch. How much substituting could I do? Shaun Murphy, an outstanding player like that, had about five hits and eight RBIs. He had a good two weeks in one day."
Said MacKenzie: "We didn't even keep score, but they did. I know Mike Scyphers . . . and he told me later that he was sorry he had to report the score to the papers."
The next week, Simi Valley was ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section 4-A poll.
"I'm sure when the sportswriters see scores and statistics like that, it does affect the rankings," Scyphers said.
And those rankings, voted on by sportswriters, could affect Southern Section playoff seedings.
According to Scott Cathcart, spokesman for the Southern Section, the four seeded teams in each playoff division are most often the top four teams in each poll.
"That's why we take the preseason very seriously," Scyphers said. "If we're 12-0 in league, we split our tournament games, but are 0-5 in non-league, we have a 15-8 overall record and we're not going to get seeded. If we win league and keep our losses to a minimum during nonleague, it helps us get a better first-round draw."
This season, Simi Valley beat Canoga Park 15-0. The Pioneers are ranked No. 1 in the Valley by The Times.
In the City, teams are placed in order by their record in league games, with some consideration to teams from strong leagues.
"Even if it doesn't affect playoff pairings, I think games should be played as real games," Stroh said. "When there is something on the line it's easier to get a better read on your players. Everyone takes it a little more serious."
Which is probably easier to do when your shortstop isn't pitching and the other team's fastest runner isn't swiping every base in sight.