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McAnany Is a Big Hit in Many Ways : Catcher Holds Record for Stopping Pitches With His Body

February 19, 1987|SCOTT ROSENBERG | Times Staff Writer

You are a catcher for a baseball team and it's your turn to bat. You're standing at home plate and the pitcher throws an 85-mile-an-hour fastball. It's coming straight at you. Knowing the ball has a very good chance of hitting you, you decide to:

a) Make like a Marine and dive headfirst into the dirt.

b) Freeze and pray it doesn't hurt too much.

c) Deftly turn your body into the pitch and hope it hits you.

Jim McAnany prefers c.

Why would anybody want to get hit by a baseball?

It's not that McAnany, a catcher for Loyola Marymount, wants to, but he'll do anything to get on base.

McAnany is so successful at his art that he set an NCAA record last season by getting "dosed" 21 times. The most important incident came in the West Regional championship game against Hawaii. He leaned into a fastball with the bases loaded, starting a rally that gave the Lions the victory that moved them into the College World Series.

In his three-year career, McAnany has been hit 33 times.

"When a pitcher is throwing well, and he gets two quick outs, if you get hit and then run hard to first base, it kind of takes the momentum away from the pitcher," McAnany said. "When I go to the plate, I'm looking to hit the ball, but if the guy is throwing inside, I'll take it. Anything to help the team."

McAnany is not alone: Three other Lions were in double figures last year in one of baseball's least-heard-of statistical categories.

The credit for this style of play has to go to third-year Coach Dave Snow, whose teams at Los Angeles Valley College and Cal State Fullerton did the same thing. Now the Lions are doing it.

"Yeah, everyone else is getting dosed," McAnany said, "but I guess I got into it more than the others."

If Rambo ever decided to play baseball, he'd be Jim McAnany.

Squatty at 5-9, 190 pounds, McAnany looks like a catcher. And with his mustache protruding from his square face, he reminds one of Thurman Munson, the late New York Yankee backstop.

What kind of guy would deliberately get hit by a baseball?

"Put it this way," said Tim Layana, McAnany's cousin and holder of most LMU pitching records. "If you don't know him, and you're meeting him for the first time, you'd be scared of him. I mean, look at the way he dresses. And his hair."

McAnany shaves his head, which adds to his image of the bad guy on the baseball field.

"He walks to a little different beat," Snow said. "He's a different character, but the guys like him. People that don't know him don't understand him. But the guys on the team understand him, and the coaches kind of understand him."

On the diamond, he does only good things. He probably won't be known for anything besides getting hit by the ball, but consider his other benchmarks:

- A four-year starter who has caught 172 of the Lions' 181 games.

- A .298 career batting average.

- 21 career home runs (before this season), 124 RBIs.

- Only four errors in 353 chances last year for a team-leading .989 percentage.

McAnany can play baseball.

"His mental makeup and attitude are his biggest pluses, but Jim is a fine, fine player," said Tom Roberts, a scout for the San Diego Padres. "He has a real good chance to hit, and his catching has greatly improved. His arm would be the only thing that would hold him back, but he will get a chance to play professional baseball, I'm sure."

If he does go pro, McAnany will be following in his father's footsteps. Jim Sr. played for the Cubs and White Sox. He played outfield and hit against the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax in the 1959 World Series.

"But I never pushed him," said the elder McAnany. "I encouraged him, but I never pushed him. I always felt that he had to want to play, that it had to be his choice. I never even coached him. I told him, 'Just because I played doesn't mean you have to.' "

But he wanted to. And although he played a little football at Loyola High School, Jim Jr. always wanted to be a catcher.

"It suits my attitude," he said. "I'm a hustler, I work hard. I can hit (he bats left-handed), throw and catch, but I do everything the same. I don't stand out at one thing.

"I have a very intense attitude. It may be kind of strange, though. If I don't know you, I may not talk to you, but that doesn't mean I don't like you. I just deal with people differently.

"Sometimes it gets me in trouble on the field. I can get a little psycho."

And he can psyche out opposing pitchers. They worry so much about hitting him that they sometimes put the ball over the plate too much. With a reputation for absorbing a pitch to his body, McAnany went out on opening day of the 1987 season and didn't get hit once.

Instead, he went 3 for 4 against Cal State Los Angeles, with a home run and 4 RBIs.

"Jim is a ballplayer," Snow said. "His biggest quality is his toughness and competitiveness, but he can play the game well, too."

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