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HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE OF THE WEEK

Montclair Prep's Fullmer Frequently Has a Blast

March 24, 1993|JEFF FLETCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Brad Fullmer's reputation is that of an arrogant power hitter who couldn't catch a cold.

There is no question about the power. Fullmer, Montclair Prep's third baseman, has hit eight home runs in eight games this season, including five in the past three.

As for the tags "cocky" and "bad glove," Fullmer said they are undeserved. Mostly.

Fullmer acknowledges that, on occasion, he has stopped to admire one of his home runs or taken a leisurely stroll around the bases. Only last week, Coach Walt Steele pulled Fullmer from a game because of his slow home run trot.

"When you're that good you don't have to do that," Montclair Prep assistant Tim Montez said. "We try to be a classy team."

A slow trot is the only reason Fullmer causes his coaches to do a slow burn. His defense has been improving, Steele said. Fullmer has been moved around the field and even off it--to designated hitter--during his time at Montclair Prep, but he now appears settled at third base.

"He has some mechanical flaws that he's trying to work with," Steele said. "He's very confident and aggressive at the plate, obviously, so we're trying to get him to take that same aura out to the field with him."

In an effort to improve his defense, Fullmer took ground balls from his father almost every day this winter, he said. He said he feels he is getting better every day at third base. While his improvement in the field is mostly a result of hard work, hitting has come more naturally. Since Little League, Fullmer has been one of the area's better hitters in his age group. Steele said Fullmer would have played varsity as a freshman had there not been so many seniors on the team that year.

Instead, he played on the junior varsity team coached by P.C. Shaw, a Montclair Prep graduate who is now an assistant at Cal State Northridge. Shaw recognized Fullmer's natural ability immediately.

"Just give him three meals and four at-bats a day and he'll be happy," Shaw said.

Fullmer, who has signed with Stanford, was the varsity designated hitter as a sophomore, when he hit .375 with five home runs. As a junior, he was among the area leaders in batting (.538), home runs (10) and runs batted in (40). Playing for the Sepulveda American Legion team last summer, he won the District 20 triple crown by hitting .613 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs in 62 regular-season at-bats.

So far this season, Fullmer is 16 for 28 (.571) with 20 RBIs. His home-run-a-game pace gives him a chance to break the Southern Section single-season record of 16, set by Arnold Garcia of Channel Islands in 1981. With 23 career homers, he also is within shouting distance of the Section record of 32, held by Simi Valley's Scott Sharts (1986-88).

Given the dimensions of Montclair Prep's home field in Mission Hills, neither record is safe. The fence is about 335 feet from home plate all the way around. But Fullmer, a 6-foot-1 left-handed batter, has had only one home run this season that he didn't feel he hit well, and that was at Canyon.

On Monday against Murphy, he hit a home run to left field that took one hop on Haskell Avenue and landed in a neighboring front yard about 400 feet from home plate. Fullmer hits everything hard. Sometimes too hard.

Earlier this season, Fullmer drove a ground ball into right field at Chaminade, which has a shallow fence. He was thrown out at first base. "I hit it good," Fullmer said. "It wasn't even a close play. I didn't really get embarrassed. It's frustrating more than anything."

His quick bat and power have attracted the attention of professional scouts. Fullmer estimates that an average of 10 scouts attend each game. Despite the commitment to Stanford, Fullmer said he is open to signing a pro contract.

"I'm going to wait and see how the draft turns out in (June)," Fullmer said. "If the money's right--and I haven't decided what that figure would be yet--I have no hesitation to sign."

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