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Maris and Mantle, Prepare to Move Over

May 01, 1986|JAMES L. ADKINS | Times Staff Writer

Remember Maris and Mantle? Mays and McCovey? How about the current Baltimore Orioles duo of Ripken and Murray?

How about Bauroth and Mears of Santa Monica College?.

Right now Jon Bauroth, 21, and Kirk Mears, 20, teammates at Santa Monica, make up one of the most potent hitting duos in junior college baseball. If they continue to hit at the college and/or minor-league levels and show that they can get good wood--as well as the good aluminum used by colleges--on the ball, they might wind up on a major league roster together.

It's a long shot--but then so are many of the line drives they've been hitting.

Bauroth, a left-handed-hitting and -throwing first baseman, is hitting .400 with one home run and 32 runs batted in for the season, and in Metropolitan Conference play he is batting .416 with 23 RBIs. Mears, a 5-10, 175-pound catcher, is hitting .385 with 5 home runs and 24 RBIs overall, and he is demolishing conference pitching with a .511 average. Mears has set a school season record with 13 doubles.

"They're the meat of our lineup," said Santa Monica Coach Marty Berson. "When our one, two and three hitters get on base, they'll pick them up. With a ballgame on the line, there's no one I would rather have up there than these two guys."

Metro Conference pitchers would rather see a couple of other guys, even though Santa Monica is only 17-12 overall and 8-6 in the conference.

Against Pierce College, Mears drew four intentional walks. "Every time I came up to the plate there was a man on second, so the pitcher walked me. And I'm getting hit by a lot of pitches, too," he said.

But when Bauroth and Mears get pitches they can hit, the guy on the mound would be well advised to duck.

Secret: Relaxation

The shots they hit may look like they came from crossbows instead of Louisville Sluggers, but both say it is relaxation--not tension--that makes them hitters.

"There's no pressure up there," Bauroth said. "I used to worry about having to make a name for myself. But if you do good, you do good."

Mears: "I feel comfortable at the plate. I feel that I know what the pitch is going to be before I hit the ball. I look for one certain pitch. . . . If it's a 3-and-1 count, I'll look for an off-speed pitch. They don't want to throw me a fastball. I'm a good fastball hitter."

Mears played third base last year. At first he resisted the move to catcher this season but now is glad he made it. He feels that catching has helped his hitting.

"I didn't like it at first. I told the coach I'd put time in behind the plate, but I didn't want to be first-string catcher. But now it seems to work out." Because he gets a good look at pitches while catching, he feels he also sees the ball better when at bat.

Bauroth and Mears consider themselves line-drive hitters. "I can't get the ball up in the air high enough to get it over the fence," Mears said.

Both said that hitting has always come naturally but that they have become smarter hitters at Santa Monica, and they credit Berson and his videotape machine. Mears said the machine "allows us to see every at-bat we've taken. If we've had a bad game, we can see what we were doing."

But Bauroth and Mears haven't had to watch themselves much this year. Certainly not after Mears crushed three doubles off the wall against Los Angeles City College. Or when Bauroth, in a double-header with Pierce, went 5 for 6 with three doubles and knocked in the winning run in both games.

Although they usually feast on pitchers, sometimes they eat scraps.

Mears was in a mild slump before conference play began but snapped out of it by relaxing. "I wasn't hitting that good in non-conference, but I stopped thinking about it. And as soon as I did, I started to relax."

Bauroth said he breaks a slump by concentrating on taking a level swing and trying to hit the ball up the middle.

When one slumps, the other doesn't try to advise him on how to get out of it.

Bauroth: "We'll stay relaxed and keep our minds off of it. We'll talk about each other's girlfriends. If he's in a slump, I'll joke around to get his spirits up. If you talk about it, it would get him worried more."

Bauroth said his practical jokes loosen up Mears and the rest of the team. In an Easter tournament in San Diego, he gave Coach Berson wake-up calls at 3:30 and 4 a.m. He added--unnecessarily--that his favorite player is Jay Johnstone, the renowned joker of the major leagues.

Bauroth and Mears are from Granada Hills and have been friends since they were 10th-graders at Kennedy High School.

Both started in youth baseball, playing against each other in the Granada Hills Little League and Senior League. They first joined forces and led the Senior League all-star team to the District 40 championship--a first for the league.

Both say their parents supported--but didn't push--them in youth baseball. "My parents never pressured me to play the game--if they did, I probably would not be playing now," Mears said.

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