Pat Treend prefers heavy-metal music. Treend prefers metal bats. Treend's targets prefer armor.
Well, targets might be a slight exaggeration, but anyone who has been plunked by one of the El Camino Real High pitcher's bone-busting fastballs might feel otherwise.
When Treend was a kid, his size, not to mention his wayward fastball, was cause for concern. At age 13, Treend was already 6 feet tall. Many a mother fretted that Treend would send her child home from the game with a Mr. Spalding spot welded to his left temple.
"Moms would walk up to Pat and say, 'Oh, please don't hit little Johnny today,' " said Chuck Treend, Pat's father. "Others would say, 'Hey, check the birth certificate of that big oaf.' "
Treend's wildness is well-documented. From his first day of ball at El Camino Real, it was obvious that if Treend wasn't raising eyebrows, he was parting them.
"For a long time, I think they were afraid to let Pat pitch B. P. because they thought he'd kill somebody," said Jason Cohen, an El Camino Real outfielder.
"I think it might have something to do with the first guy I pitched to at my first varsity tryout," said Treend, who has signed to play next season for UC Santa Barbara.
As a wild-eyed, wild-winged freshman, Treend took the mound to face Leo Matsuda as dozens of players looked on. Offering No. 1 was a strike, Treend recalls. Offering No. 2 was a ball, Treend recalls. Offering No. 3 hit Matsuda in the face. Treend recoils.
"I got him right in the jaw," Treend said. "He hit the ground like a sack of potatoes, he was out cold. . . . All the older guys were going, 'God, he isn't moving. He's dead.'
"I was scared to death. I mean, I was a big kid, but mentally, I'm 15 years old. So the next guy climbs in and he's quaking in his boots. I'm so scared I start throwing 'em in there at about 25 or 30 miles an hour.
"I think that's when (Coach Mike) Maio decided I wasn't quite ready (for the varsity)."
Matsuda recovered. So did Treend, sort of. In his first junior varsity start, which ended in a 1-1 tie, Treend struck out 15 in seven innings--and walked 11.
He made the varsity as a sophomore and showed promise, although wildness stalked him until the middle of last summer. As a junior, Treend walked 35 in 49 1/3 innings and finished 4-3. His earned-run average of 5.96 was high enough to melt a solar-powered calculator.
He seemed to snap out of the walk-one-whiff-one funk while helping pitch Woodland Hills West to an American Legion World Series title last August. Coincidentally or not, Treend has dropped 25 pounds from his 6-foot-4 frame since last summer and is down to 195.
But Treend says the idea that it might be healthier to throw strikes crossed his mind well before Legion play started.
"I think I got the idea after a few seams got scraped across my forehead last year by Chatsworth and Kennedy guys," he said. "I got mashed last year."
Treend always has had rifle-arm velocity--his fastball has been clocked in the mid-80s--but his spray pattern was more akin to a shotgun blast. As a senior, however, his wildness has essentially been muzzled.
Treend (12-0) has struck out 100 in 84 2/3 innings with 47 walks. He has allowed 61 hits, has an earned-run average of 1.24 and has completed 11 of 12 starts.
More important, he no longer has had to endure teammates' plaintive pleas to \o7 just throw strikes.\f7
"Position players think it's that easy--just walk up there and throw 'em over the plate," Treend said with a sniff. "Heck, if they come within a few \o7 feet\f7 of a guy on a cutoff play, that's pretty good. In pitching, it all comes down to about two \o7 inches\f7 ."
His talent, it seems, now matches his proportions. In a City Section 4-A Division semifinal game against San Fernando on Friday, Treend threw a one-hitter, struck out 11 and walked five to lead El Camino Real to a 3-1 victory and a date with Chatsworth in the championship game tonight at Dodger Stadium.
"I don't think I've ever seen Pat throw better than that," Maio said. "He had such a rhythm, he was in such a groove."
But it has been a learning experience.
"(When) I came into high school, I was basically a thrower," Treend said. Maio points to Treend's improvement in "maturity and concentration."
Either way, his teammates are thankful. Cohen and Treend were teammates as 14-year-olds, and Cohen was the catcher.
"Sometimes he'd throw about five balls in a row right off the plate," Cohen said. "Imagine what my body looked like after the game."
Cohen said he once was crossed up and tried to barehand a Treend heave that caromed off the plate.
"Dislocated three of my fingers," Cohen said. "I swear, they were purple and blue within 30 seconds."
There were times when Treend also took his lumps.
When Treend was 9, his father coached a team of all-stars from the West Hills Mustang program. The team included Ryan McGuire, now a senior at El Camino Real, and 1989 graduate Paul Geller.
Pat didn't make the squad--he wasn't good enough.