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At Mound and at Plate, Two Standout Prep Players : Strong, Silent Pitcher for St. Anthony Lets His Arm and Bat Do the Talking

May 10, 1990|DICK WAGNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He is tall and left-handed, which, for a pitcher, can be an imposing combination to begin with. More importantly, he throws a fastball that moves wickedly.

Eric Mooney of St. Anthony High School was dispensing with some Pius X High batters on a recent afternoon at Guesno Field in Lakewood.

Two veteran major league scouts sat behind the backstop and directed their radar guns at the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Mooney.

"Everything moves," said Jack French of the San Francisco Giants, talking about Mooney's pitches. "He gets all his shoulder into it. It seems like he's throwing like a pro already, as far as form goes."

Art Sherman of the Milwaukee Brewers added: "He's potentially a good prospect. He's strong and he likes to play."

Sherman's gun revealed that Mooney had just thrown a pitch 83 m.p.h., which is good for a high school pitcher, according to French.

"There's only one guy I've seen this year in high school, junior college or college who's thrown 90, and that was a pitcher at Long Beach State, (Dennis) Gray," French said.

Mooney pitches in the highly competitive Camino Real League, which is composed of Division 2-A schools. But Sherman said he would also fare well against larger schools.

"He could throw in the Moore League," Sherman said. "There are a lot of JCs and colleges interested in him."

John Herbold, coach at Cal State Los Angeles, looked over from his spot behind the screen and said: "What do you think I'm here for?"

Mooney could be selected in the June professional draft, but if he is not, he said, he may attend St. Mary's College in Moraga. "I'd like to go into pro ball (eventually)," he said.

He threw a curve ball and a Pius X batter lined it into left field for a hit. After that he decided to stick with the fastball and he went on to strike out 12 batters in a 9-4 victory.

The 18-year-old senior has a 6-4 record and a 2.12 earned run average. One of his victories was over No. 1-ranked El Segundo, 4-3. In 65 innings he has struck out 103 batters and walked 19.

He is the major reason why St. Anthony, 11-8 overall and 10-2 in the league before Wednesday's rematch with El Segundo, will be in the CIF Southern Section playoffs for the first time in four years.

Pitching in the little park at Del Amo Boulevard and Clark Avenue is not an advantage for Mooney. The fences, topped with 20-foot-high nets, are not far away. It is only 250 feet down the right-field line and less than 300 to the power alleys.

A .335 hitter and the team's RBI (21) and home run leader (7), Mooney plays first base when he is not pitching. He homered against Pius X; the ball landed in a back yard beyond the net in right. But he prefers being on the mound.

"I decided to be a pitcher because at every place else on the field you're not in on every play," he said.

Mooney lets his arm and bat speak for themselves.

"He's kind of quiet," said Saints Coach Ron Tostenson. "He's a hard worker and very coachable."

Because St. Anthony does not have a pitching coach, Mooney has to look elsewhere for help. Last summer he worked with former major league pitcher Vern Ruhl, now pitching coach at Cal State Fullerton.

"He taught me how to use my legs more," Mooney said.

Mooney averaged 16 points for St. Anthony's JV basketball team last season but decided this year to concentrate solely on the sport he has played since he was 6 years old.

That dedication has been rewarded.

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