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Steve Springer

2 Pioneers Embark for the Land of Promise

February 15, 1987|STEVE SPRINGER

Sometime toward the end of this month, two cars will pull away from Simi Valley containing two kids headed for fantasyland.

At least that's what it seemed to be--this dream of playing professional baseball--to a couple of 14-year-old kids named Scott Radinsky and Dave Milstien.

It was four years ago when Radinsky and Milstien first met on the ball fields of Simi Valley. They soon became teammates at Simi Valley High, Radinsky throwing fastballs from the mound, Milstien gobbling them up when they were hit near shortstop.

They certainly had talent to match their dreams, but the big leagues? That seemed a little far out.

Then, last spring, the Pioneers started knocking off one opponent after another and were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point before finishing with a 26-4 record and attracting scouts like flies to a screen door. It seemed to Radinsky that every time he stared down from the mound, he was not only looking at a catcher flashing signals but a speed gun flashing numbers. Every time Milstien raced to his right or his left in pursuit of a ground ball, some guy in the stands would reach for a pen and a clipboard.

The scouts liked what they saw. When it came draft time in June, the names Radinsky and Milstien both came up; Radinsky went to the Chicago White Sox in the third round, Milstien to the Boston Red Sox in the eighth round.

Both went East to play rookie ball, Radinsky to Sarasota, Fla., Milstien to Elmira, N.Y.

But their paths were to cross again in the Florida Instructional League. Milstien was batting eighth in the lineup for the league's Boston entry the day it faced the White Sox. Radinsky was scheduled to be the second pitcher for his squad. When his predecessor had trouble getting people out, the call to the bullpen came early.

Out marched Radinsky. He took the ball and stared down from the mound only to be greeted by a friendly face.

Dave Milstien's.

Only this time it wasn't so friendly. Nearly 3,000 miles from the old neighborhood in Simi Valley, these two were now enemies. For the moment.

Players on both sides knew about this little game within the game and they rooted loudly for their respective teammates.

Milstien took a couple of balls, then fouled off about 10 pitches. Finally, he bounced one through the left side of the infield.

Milstien says it was a solid single. Radinsky remembers it being a fielder's choice.

"Scott gave me a dirty look when I got to first," Milstien said. "We talked later on the phone and laughed about it."

Why not? Here they were, a few months removed from the tuxedos of their high school prom, dancing around in big-league uniforms.

"When I first started playing, I thought 'Wow, all these guys are professionals,' " Milstien said. "Now I just look upon them as another human being, just another obstacle to overcome on the way to where I want to go. Then finally, they become friends, not obstacles."

He and Radinsky have become very close as they travel down the same road. And so, they have decided to travel together. Although they are not required to be in spring training in Florida until the second week in March, they will arrive perhaps a week early.

"The sooner I get there, the better," Radinsky said. "I figure, if they see an 18-year-old come in earlier, they might think this guy is ready to make a move."

For now, Radinsky and Milstien are ticketed for Class-A ball.

"The whole thing is hard to comprehend," Milstien said. "You get a dream and you go for it. But still, when it happens, it takes you by surprise. It kind of takes your breath away."

Rather than using travel money provided by the clubs for airline tickets, Radinsky and Milstien and several others have put together a rather unique caravan. The Simi Valley duo will pick up a few other rookies on their way through Arizona, another in Texas and so on until eventually a line of cars will make its way across the country.

Just a bunch of dreamers heading down their own yellow brick road.

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