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THE HIGH SCHOOLS / STEVE ELLING

A Uniform Policy Buoys Mounties

April 18, 1993|STEVE ELLING

Montclair Prep baseball Coach Walt Steele decided his team needed to be challenged. Battles, at least over the short term, would be waged with bare knuckles.

Steele threw down the gloves.

And the wristbands.

And the uniforms.

After the Mounties were blown out by Alemany, 15-7, in the third game of the season, Steele had seen enough. Montclair Prep was 1-2 and going nowhere fast.

"We lost to Alemany, ugly ," Steele said. "We kicked the ball around, threw it around, did all the bad stuff you could possibly imagine."

So he forbade his players to wear batting gloves and wristbands. They were issued the frosh-soph team's uniform tops, which were to be worn during games.

"I told them, 'Until you play like varsity players, you'll wear these or nothing,' " he said. "No more of the cosmetic jewelry of the game."

The Mounties responded, blistered hands and all. Montclair Prep hasn't lost since.

Even though the tactic worked, a few players tried to skirt Steele's edict. Brad Fullmer, the team's Stanford-bound slugger, walked to the plate a week later during a game against Chaminade wearing batting gloves.

Steele, playing no favorites, stopped the game and nixed the notion from the dugout. He has since allowed the team to wear batting gloves and the varsity uniform tops, though the wristbands are nowhere to be seen.

After a victory Saturday, the Mounties seem headed in the proper sartorial direction. Look for the wristbands to appear sometime soon.

Behind the dish: Chris Paxton is happy to report that he's half the man he used to be.

Paxton, a sophomore at Palmdale, lost 40 pounds in the off-season. Before, he put the ton in Paxton.

In fact, one rival Golden League coach

recently asked him, "Where's the rest of you?"

"I didn't look much like a baseball player," Paxton said.

He did, however, look like a typical high school catcher. Last season, as a freshman starter, Paxton (6-foot-1) weighed a beefy 210 pounds. A hard day behind the plate at school usually led to a night behind the dish at home. With seconds.

Paxton decided the extra girth was getting in the way and started running in the off-season. He also cut down on his fat intake and is now a lean 170-pounder.

It hasn't hurt his play. Paxton is 18 for 45 (.400) and has helped Palmdale (13-2-1, 5-1-1 in league play) remain one-half game between Quartz Hill (9-6, 6-1) in the league race.

Old Dodger Blue Eyes: There he is, plain as a day game, wearing a funky straw hat and standing right behind Frank Sinatra in a photo in the April 12 edition of Sports Illustrated.

It's easy to miss at first, but look closely at page 88. The star-struck visage of Howard Levine, the boys' basketball coach at Grant, is clearly visible beneath his Dodger-issue boater chapeau.

Levine, a tried-and-true Sinatra-phile, has worked part time as a stadium usher for 22 years. To find him within earshot of Sinatra is no surprise, because Levine fashions himself a pretty fair singer. Call him on the telephone and you are likely to hear one of his baritone versions of a Sinatra classic on the answering machine.

Levine has even belted out lounge tunes professionally in the past, crushed velvet suit and all.

Levine said the picture, which is included in a story about folks who tossed out the first ball on opening day, was shot at a Yankees-Dodgers World Series game in either 1977 or 1978. When Levine learned that his idol was going to throw out the first ball, he arranged to work that section of the stadium.

A big hit: Kennedy right fielder Pablo Perez played in all 11 roller-coaster innings of Thursday's 2-1 victory over Chatsworth, though you'd never know it by perusing the team stat sheet.

While most of his teammates' batting averages were spiraling downward because of the 10 scoreless innings pitched by Chatsworth sophomore Harry Kenoi, Perez finished where he started.

Perez made four plate appearances but had no official at-bats. Not to say he didn't carry his weight. He was hit in the rump three consecutive times by Kenoi and added a sacrifice bunt to finished a hard-earned Oh-for-Oh.

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