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Making a Name for Himself : Sophomore Dion Battee Has Emerged as St. Bernard's Best Player

April 22, 1993|LONNIE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PLAYA DEL REY — Dion Battee knew all about St. Bernard High's baseball tradition when he enrolled as a freshman.

He knew about Coach Bob Yarnall's ability to produce great players and the school's history of winning teams.

What concerned Battee most was how he would fit in.

"Over the years, there have been so many great players who played here," said Battee, a right-fielder who is rated among the top sophomore players in the state. "I didn't want to come in and try to compare myself with them."

Among the players Yarnall has coached are Timmy Williams, Royce Clayton and Dan Melendez.

All three are former Southern Section Division players of the year. Williams was the 1-A player in 1987, and Clayton and Melendez won the 2-A award in 1988 and 1989, respectively.

All three players entered St. Bernard with high expectations as freshmen, which could have been a problem for Battee.

But Battee, a sophomore, has thrived in his first season on the varsity.

The 6-foot, 185-pound Battee is batting .465 with seven home runs and 20 runs batted in. He also has scored 16 runs and stolen six bases.

"He has as much raw talent offensively as any player I've had," Yarnall said.

"You could see it in the first game we played this season against Ventura. He hit a 430-foot home run that was almost a pure line drive. You just don't hit a ball that hard and get it out so quickly."

Under the coaching of his uncle, Craig Hackett, Battee developed quickly as a batter. Every year he was among Little League leaders in home runs with St. Bernard teammate Robert Cox.

"I guess that I've always been a home run threat," Battee said. "Even though I wasn't the biggest kid playing, I was a big kid who hit the ball hard."

Yarnall first noticed Battee's skills last summer and knew that he had great potential.

"I saw that he had extremely quick wrists," Yarnall said. "So I sat him down and gave him the talk that I gave everyone else--to work hard and then work harder."

After the talk with Yarnall, Battee has done nothing but improve.

"He has listened and it is paying off for him now," Yarnall said.

Battee, who said is surprised with his fast start this season, hopes to someday follow in Clayton's footsteps.

Battee, also plays football and basketball for St. Bernard, but says baseball is his calling.

"All I really want to do is to play baseball," said Battee, who plans to give up basketball next season. "But if the opportunity comes for me either to sign professionally or go to college and play after my senior year, right now I'd choose college."

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