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Baseball's Lockout Opened New Doors for Pierce Slugger Fairly

NOTEBOOK / BRENDAN HEALEY

April 28, 1990|BRENDAN HEALEY

Pat Fairly is probably one of only a few baseball nuts who actually benefited from the recent major league lockout. He found a silver bat in the cloud of the lockout when he locked in a new swing.

The training-camp interruption afforded Pierce's sophomore slugger an opportunity to work with his dad, former major leaguer Ron Fairly, and the results have been smashing.

"He turned me around totally," said Pat, who recently set a school single-season record with his 10th home run. "He had some quality time to work with me, and he has changed me 110 percent."

Throughout a 21-year major league career and a subsequent broadcasting career, Ron was always involved in spring training or the regular season while Pat was playing.

"This is the first chance I've had the opportunity of seeing some games," said Ron, now an announcer for the San Francisco Giants. "I just watched him swing the bat, and we talked about the mental aspects of batting. I gave him some drills; from there he picked it up fast."

After practice, Pat would head home to Calabasas and work out with Ron in the garage. They concentrated on Pat's handling of inside pitches as well as other technical aspects of hitting. Pat is tied for the team lead with a .330 batting average and leads Pierce players with 28 runs batted in.

"The time of the lockout was when Pat started to hit the ball noticeably better," Pierce co-Coach Bob Lofrano said. "It's like night and day. . . . You can't help but notice what's going on. I've noticed it in the way the league is pitching him."

Carefully, that is. When Canyons' Lance Gibson fell behind 3-0 to Fairly on Tuesday, he came back with a fastball, low and outside. Fairly hit it like a nine-iron for a home run.

"I just feel a lot more confident in myself," Fairly said. "I've got an idea of being in control of situations, knowing what the pitcher's got, knowing what you might get and what you might not get."

At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Pat is taller and lankier than his smooth-swinging father, who had 1,913 hits and 215 home runs for six major league teams.

It's not unusual for a boy to grow up playing baseball in the yard with his brothers, but the Fairly boys' yards were places like Busch Stadium and Anaheim Stadium.

Middle-aged men go to baseball fantasy leagues; Pat grew up in one, playing Wiffle ball games in his back yard with the St. Louis Cardinals, working several seasons as the batboy for the visitor's clubhouse at Anaheim Stadium and spending summer afternoons with Ron at the ballpark.

"He was always just a dad to me," Pat said. "Growing up and going to the ballpark and all that kind of stuff and being a batboy, I just figured (that) was how it was. I really didn't understand what it was all about until I was about 15."

Pat was too busy just having fun. The ballpark pastime was "tapeball," baseball played in the stadium tunnels and clubhouses with wads of tape. One day during a rain delay, the Red Sox returned to their clubhouse and wanted to play tapeball.

When their game finally was rained out, the Boston players elected Pat and another batboy as captains in an impromptu game. Despite having picked the likes of Jim Rice and Dwight Evans, Pat came to the plate in the final inning with his team trailing.

"Bob Stanley was pitching to me," Pat said. "The bases were loaded, we were down by three and he said, 'I know your dad could hit the gas, but I know he can't hit a curveball. Let's see if you can.' He threw me one, and I hit a grand slam."

Talk about tape-measure home runs.

Yet, Fairly didn't even go out for baseball his first year at Pierce, and he had only a handful of RBIs last season when he hit in the .290s.

This season, Pat, 21, says he has been offered a scholarship to attend Azusa Pacific. Thursday, an assistant coach from USC, where Ron went to school, scouted Pat, who can play the corners of the infield or in the outfield. Pat also hopes to be drafted, and Ron said he has been passing the word among Giant scouts.

"He's hitting bombs," Lofrano said. "Now you've got to come back and take a look because he's really a different ballplayer."

The son also rises.

Wooing a pitcher: John Ingram, a top pitching prospect from Harbor College, is strongly considering committing to Northridge. But even if he signs a letter of intent, rumor has it that professional teams might offer him a signing bonus of more than $50,000. Ingram, a 6-4 left-hander with an 88-m.p.h. fastball, is 5-0 with an earned-run average of 1.85.

Trading places: Craig Clayton went the distance in Northridge's 12-inning win over Chapman on April 19 in the first of a three-game series against the Panthers .

In the series finale a week ago, Clayton took over at first base for Scott Sharts, who pitched his first complete collegiate game in an 8-5 Matador victory.

Sharts (2-1) surrendered three hits in the first inning, including a three-run home run. After that he settled down, allowing four hits the rest of the way.

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