Dave Staton, who for years had been relegated to the designated hitter position, has finally found a place of his own.
Staton, a former standout at Orange Coast College and Cal State Fullerton, is playing third base for the Spokane Indians, a Class-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres.
Before arriving in Spokane, though, Staton had a difficult time breaking out of his just-a-DH image.
During his years at Tustin High School, Staton developed into a fine first baseman, hitting .525 with eight home runs as a senior in 1985.
But at OCC and Fullerton, Staton played behind first baseman Rex Peters--a "once-in-a-lifetime defensive player," according to OCC Coach Mike Mayne.
"It was tough convincing (scouts) just to look at (Staton)," Mayne said. "People looked at him as a one-dimensional player."
But at Fullerton this year, that one dimension--hitting--was very attractive.
Staton led the Titans with a .371 batting average, 77 runs batted in, 22 doubles, 18 home runs and a .756 slugging percentage. The latter statistic broke the 10-year-old school record of .751 set by Tim Wallach, now with the Montreal Expos.
In June, the Padres drafted Staton in the fifth round--as a third baseman.
"San Diego has been looking for a third baseman, so we feel that third base is the best place for him to make it in the big leagues," Spokane Manager Bruce Bochy said.
"He's got good hands, he's got a strong arm. . . . I'm almost as impressed with his performance at third--for his first time there, I mean--as I am with his hitting."
Which is saying plenty. In 31 games, Staton is hitting .387 (48 for 124) and has nine doubles, seven home runs and 28 RBIs.
"I knew he could hit," Bochy said. "But I didn't think that good. He's the best hitter I've seen in this league. The best way I can describe it is to say he punishes the ball. I threw (batting practice) to him on our first day, and the first ball he hit went way up into the seats."
Staton said the chance to play defense has helped his hitting.
"When you're DH-ing, all you do is hit," he said. "All you think about is your at-bats and getting your next hit. Now you have a position to concentrate on. So it takes a lot of pressure off of your hitting."
Ready and ... waiting: Former Esperanza High star Tom Redington said he believes that his age (20) is the only reason he has yet to be promoted from the Class-A Burlington (Iowa) Braves, an Atlanta Braves affiliate.
Redington, a third baseman and The Times' Orange County baseball player of the year in 1987, leads his team in almost every category including batting average (.303), runs (47), doubles (14), RBIs (48) and home runs (16), which also leads the Midwest League.
Redington, who five weeks ago tore tendons in his ankle and had to wear a cast for a week, recovered in time to play in the Midwest League's All-Star game in South Bend, Ind. Redington--two for four with a home run, a single and two runs scored in the Southern Division's 5-1 victory--was named the game's most valuable player.
"From what I hear, they (Brave management) keep saying they're real excited with how I'm doing, but they also keep saying I'm only 20 years old," Redington said.
"They think that's the biggest holdback. They're not in a hurry to push anything. But I'm ready. I think I've proved myself enough. (Being promoted) is always on my mind."
Add Redington: After his ankle injury, Redington was sent to Atlanta for a few days of rehabilitation.
"It was fun. I to hang out in the Atlanta clubhouse, meet the players, watch a couple games," Redington said. "I was just hobbling around in a cast, so most of the players were at least curious about me."
Greg Pirkl, The Times' Orange County player of the year in 1988 at Los Alamitos High, couldn't say enough good things about life as a professional baseball player this time last year.
But Pirkl, still with the Bellingham Mariners, a Class A/Rookie affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, is getting a little restless a year later.
"It's just day-in, day-out baseball now," said Pirkl, 18. "It tends to be like that. The first year you're excited. Lots of stuff seems real neat. Next year, it's not so neat. There's just the same cities, the same towns . . . "
Pirkl, who last October had elbow surgery, is hitting .273 with four doubles, four home runs and 14 RBIs.
"I'm kind of disappointed. . . . I thought I'd be moving up a level by now," said Pirkl, a catcher. "I can say I'm happy though."
On the same day that he was named player of the week by the International League, Bill Bean, a former Santa Ana High and Loyola Marymont star, was sent from the Detroit Tigers' triple-A team in Toledo to the Dodgers' Albuquerque club.
Sunday, Bean moved again, when the Dodgers purchased his contract from Albuquerque. Bean, 25, an outfielder and first baseman, was traded for minor league outfielders Steve Green and Domingo Michel.
Bean played 36 games with the Tigers during the 1987 and 1988 seasons, batting .247 with four RBIs. In 74 games with Toledo this season, he batted .310 with four homers and 28 RBIs.
Bean had 13 hits in seven games for a .565 batting average to earn his player of the week award. He also had four doubles, four RBIs and eight runs scored.