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PREPS / KIRBY LEE

Outfielder Is Driving Opponents Battee

April 18, 1993|KIRBY LEE

Playing Little League baseball wasn't too challenging to Dion Battee, a sophomore right fielder at St. Bernard High.

"Basically you catch, hit, throw and try to get the guy out," he said.

Battee is learning there is more to the sport from St. Bernard Coach Bob Yarnall, who has coached four players currently playing at the professional level and four at Division I universities in seven seasons at the school.

"I thought I knew everything, but there's all this stuff I didn't know," Battee said. "You can't just stand around. When there's a man at first base, you have to know where to go."

Hitting has come naturally to the 6-foot, 185-pound Battee.

He has seven home runs in 15 games and is on pace to challenge the 12-year-old Southern Section record of 16 set by Arnold Garcia of Channel Islands. Battee had two home runs in a 5-4 victory over Crespi in the first round of the St. Paul tournament.

"He probably rates right up there with the quickest hands," Yarnall said. "He has the potential to be a big-time player."

That is quite a compliment coming from Yarnall, whose proteges include Dan Melendez, who is playing for the Dodgers' double-A team in San Antonio, Royce Clayton, a shortstop for the San Francisco Giants, Patrick Ahearne, a pitcher in the Detroit Tiger organization, and Brian Richardson, an outfielder in the Dodger organization.

Melendez, who played at Pepperdine, holds the St. Bernard record for home runs in a season with 14 and career with 31 from 1986-88.

Battee has also shown promise in other sports. He was a starting linebacker on the football team and played for the junior varsity basketball team before being promoted to varsity for the playoffs.

The basketball team advanced to the Southern California State Regional Division IV playoffs, causing Battee and shortstop Robert Cox to report late to baseball practice.

Yarnall has no problem with players participating in other sports, but he had a talk with Battee about concentrating on baseball.

"The coach never says you can't do something else besides baseball because he says high school is going to be the greatest time of your life," Cox said. "But the talk really inspired him. It's a whole new Dion."

Battee has decided to drop basketball next year, but isn't quite ready to do away with football.

"I love basketball as much as baseball, but if I spend more time with baseball I think I can do something with it," Battee said. "It's a lot less dangerous than football, I'm really into it now."

In addition to daily three-hour practices with the team. Battee puts in extra work fielding and in the batting cage with Cox and third baseman Andrew Dillard.

The extra work appears to be paying dividends.

Although Battee struck out twice and was hitless in the season opener against Westchester, he is batting .450. Battee, who also has six stolen bases, had two hits in three at-bats, including a triple, in a 4-0 loss to Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks in the final of the St. Paul tournament Wednesday at Cal State Los Angeles.

St. Bernard defeated St. John Bosco, 4-3, in the semifinals. St. John Bosco is ranked fifth in Southern Section Division III. The Vikings (8-7, 1-5 in Mission League) have only two seniors.

St. Bernard hopes have been bolstered by Joey Rosales, who is batting .556. Rosales missed part of the season because of academic ineligibility.

St. Bernard has hit 16 home runs but has given up 19.

"We're a real young team, but we're going to be very good," Yarnall said. "It looks pretty dark in league now, but it's never too late. We're starting to come into form."

Overcoming barriers: Nicole Thomas didn't qualifying to compete in the 300-meter hurdles at the Arcadia Invitational March 27.

But the Morningside freshman ran the state's fastest time of 43.86 seconds in the Mt. San Antonio College Relays Friday, winning by nearly two seconds over Shania Edwards of Moreno Valley. Thomas' mark also shattered the school record of 45.50 set in 1992 by Sonoma Nickson.

"I chopped the first hurdle and made a couple of mistakes," the 5-7 Thomas said. "I think I can run 42s."

Quite an understatement for Thomas, whose previous best of 47.44 was set in placing fourth at the Alemany Relays. She was leading, but fell after hitting the last hurdle.

The mishap not only cost her an opportunity to compete in the event at Arcadia, it also deprived her of a chance to win a commemorative watch awarded to event winners. She had planned to give the watch to her parents as a wedding anniversary present.

Thomas was an alternate for the event won by Karen Vigilant of Long Beach Wilson in 44.28. Vigilant was also the winner at the Alemany Relays.

"I was so hurt because knew I could have won that race," Thomas said. "I wanted to win a watch for my parents."

In the end, she won a watch as a member of Morningide's 1,600-meter relay team, which ran 3:45.96.

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