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Against the Odds : Los Amigos Ace Ken Luckham Gets Few Breaks

March 20, 1987|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | Times Staff Writer

What's in a name? Not much, if you're Ken Luckham, Los Amigos High School pitcher.

Luck, at least the good kind, has avoided Luckham in high school the way pitching victories have. Just call him Ken Hard-Luckham.

When he was a sophomore, the most hits he ever allowed in a game was seven. All Luckham had to show for it was a 4-5 record.

He went 1-5 as a junior, but the Lobos were one of Orange County's worst teams, finishing 3-18.

Luckham (0-2) opened his senior season two weeks ago with a complete-game, five-hit five-strikeout performance against sixth-ranked Western. Two Lobo errors led to two Pioneer runs, and Los Amigos lost, 2-0.

Luckham allowed nine hits in his second start, a 9-1 loss to Cypress last Friday, but the Lobos committed 12 errors.

That's been the story for Luckham, a 6-foot 2-inch, 190-pounder. He'll usually pitch well enough to win, but the Lobos will usually play just bad enough to lose. And if he's not pitching well, Los Amigos doesn't have a chance.

The situation probably won't improve much this season. Los Amigos, which starts only four seniors, is 0-6 entering today's Garden Grove League opener against Rancho Alamitos.

So you probably won't find Luckham among the county's victory leaders this season.

But victories aren't everything, as one rival coach points out.

"He can get lost in the statistical shuffle, but I can't imagine a finer pitcher in Orange County," La Quinta Coach Dave Demarest said. "Anyone who has any intelligence, as far as college or the pro profession, can see that the kid is a prospect.

"He has the size, the build, and he can throw. He just needs something positive to happen."

That's the problem. There has been little positive about Luckham's high school career, save for his contributions to the Los Amigos baseball field--he's the Lobos' unofficial groundskeeper who drags the infield dirt with an all-terrain vehicle before practices and games and who waters and mows the infield grass--and for his attitude entering his senior season.

Luckham vowed to rededicate himself to the game this year, to work as hard as he could to become a better pitcher and to set a good example for his younger teammates by putting out the maximum effort--regardless of the team's record.

Of course, any amount of enthusiasm will be a marked improvement over last season, a disaster for Luckham.

The team had enough problems of its own. Luckham said there was dissension among the players and that, at one point during the season, several were caught drinking beer at a party.

None was disciplined, but then-Coach Bob Spence threatened that if anyone was seen drinking again he would be dismissed. Luckham said the drinking continued without the coach knowing about it.

Throw in the Lobos' horrendous record, and it's no wonder morale was so low.

Luckham also had his own problems, which began the winter before his junior season. He pitched for the Chicago Cubs' scout team, which consisted of top high school, college and minor league players, but didn't throw nearly as well as he had in high school.

"I realized I had a really good sophomore year, and I figured my junior year would be just as good if I didn't work hard," Luckham said. "But over the winter, I was only throwing 80 m.p.h (he's usually in the upper 80s) and I was really disappointed. I lost all respect for myself."

Luckham drifted away from his good work habits and toward the party scene. He began drinking beer virtually every weekend that winter.

"I was having fun, but I didn't realize what I was doing to myself," Luckham said. "I didn't even like drinking, and I didn't get drunk much. I only went out and had a few beers. But that took me away from my sport."

Luckham said he quit drinking when the season started, for fear of being caught and dismissed from the team.

But he was still out of shape and not pitching well, and by the time he regained form the team problems had worsened. Luckham didn't think the players practiced hard or long enough, and the losses continued to mount.

Baseball was no longer fun.

"I totally lost my desire for the game," Luckham said. "The scene was really bad, and I wanted to change my ways."

That meant a change of scenery. The situation was serious enough last March for Luckham and his mother, Joyce, to get an apartment in the La Quinta attendance area and fill out the necessary forms for a transfer.

The plan was to have his mother remain in their current house and Ken live in the La Quinta-area apartment with his father, Don, who lives and works in England but comes to California during baseball season.

On a Friday morning during the first week of the league season, Luckham left Los Amigos and went to La Quinta to finalize the transfer. However, a La Quinta vice principal discovered that Luckham wouldn't be eligible for varsity baseball under the proposed living arrangement.

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