Whoever caught--and kept--Eric Christopherson's lucky catchers' mitt after the Colt World Series in Lafayette, Ind., two years ago should be sure to keep it in a safe place. It may become a collectors' item some day.
That mitt, sacrificed to the crowd after his Ocean View Little League team defeated Lafayette, 7-2, in 1985, was one of Christopherson's favorites. He used it as the team won 20 straight games en route to the championship.
But after he threw his batting glove, cap and bat to the fans surrounding him, his well-worn mitt was next to go.
"I was sorry to lose it, of course," Christopherson said. "But it was the World Series, you know. The cost was worth it."
Christopherson, The Times' Player of the Week, hasn't been pursued by equipment-hungry fans lately. But it's hardly an indication of his performance. Christopherson has been extraordinary--especially in three Sunset League games last week.
Monday, Christopherson was 4 for 4 with 2 home runs, 7 runs batted in and a walk in a 10-2 victory over Fountain Valley.
Tuesday, he was 1 for 1 with a two-run home run and three walks in a 7-6 victory over Marina.
And Saturday, Christopherson was 3 for 3 with 2 runs scored and 2 walks in an 11-8 victory over Huntington Beach.
He's batting .538 with 14 RBIs, 4 home runs, 2 doubles and 10 walks. He has thrown out 10 of 13 runners who attempted to steal and has only two passed balls in eight games.
Christopherson has a strong arm, an exceptionally quick release and a maturity that transcends a mere knowledge of the game.
"You've got a package deal with Eric," said Bill Gibbons, Ocean View coach. "He's one that can do all those things--catching, hitting and team leadership--right now. And does them very, very well.
Last winter, Christopherson played in 35 scout-league games for the Houston Astros' and Atlanta Braves' minor league teams at Cal State Los Angeles. Christopherson said he was nervous and dropped a few balls at first but soon began catching the 90-m.p.h. fastballs without too much trouble.
According to Gibbons, Christopherson has developed from a shy, sometimes moody sophomore into a team leader.
"He has a maturity factor that looks beyond his own stats and averages," Gibbons said. "He thinks of the team first. He's reached that level where he understands what's really important. That takes a special kind of kid. But he worked very hard. It wasn't magic."
Christopherson's family background is rich in baseball.
His uncle, Gary Christopherson, was drafted by the Dodgers as a catcher in 1963. His brother, Casey Martin, pitched for Golden West College and Cal State Long Beach. And his cousin, sophomore Gary Christopherson Jr., is Ocean View's third baseman.
Gary will play in the Colt League this summer, hoping to make it all the way to the Colt World Series.
Do yourself a favor, Gary. Bring an extra mitt.