The transformation of Bryan LaCour has begun.
However, the Chatsworth High baseball standout does not expect a rapid metamorphosis. The process of the demure LaCour becoming a vocal team leader will occur gradually--and, quite possibly, with growing pains.
Still, watch closely and you can see the change. LaCour began to don the mantle of leadership, almost imperceptibly, during the baseball tournament of the L.A. Watts Summer Games.
The All-City Section shortstop has been quick to praise teammates for jobs well-done and even quicker to console them in moments of disappointment. Previously, LaCour would have felt out of place and out of line with such displays.
But that was then. This is but a preview of the new-and-improved LaCour, who was named to The Times' All-Valley team last week.
LaCour's leadership--in addition to his talent--is a key reason the Chancellors have advanced to the tournament's championship game against Kennedy today at noon at Compton College.
On Saturday, Chatsworth defeated Glendora, 8-5, in the quarterfinals and then Redlands, 3-2.
The tournament is the first opportunity for LaCour to demonstrate his leadership. Many players from last season's junior varsity are playing in their first games for last season's City 4-A Division runner-up.
LaCour figured this would be an opportune moment to open up.
"I'm not normally a very verbal guy, so this is kind of hard for me," LaCour, 17, said. "I'm talking it up more out there because we've got a lot of (junior varsity) guys playing with us who are going to be on the varsity next season.
"It will be tough to open up my mouth but I have to."
Chatsworth Coach Tom Meusborn is relying on LaCour, who will be a senior next season, to partially fill the leadership void left by center fielder Mark Lopez.
Lopez, who received a scholarship to play baseball at Pepperdine, was a team leader for a Chancellor squad that fell just short of winning its third 4-A title. Chatsworth lost to West Valley League rival El Camino Real, 7-6, in the final June 3 at Dodger Stadium.
"Bryan will be fine," Meusborn said. "We can count on him."
LaCour was named one of four Chancellor captains for next season. He will be pleased if he is half the leader his best friend is.
"I've got to take over for (Lopez)," LaCour said. "(Lopez) is such a great leader. Being verbal is easy for him but I have to get better in that aspect."
Meusborn wants LaCour to leave that part of his game alone. LaCour batted .447 with four home runs and 26 runs batted in. An outfielder on the varsity as a sophomore, LaCour adapted well to being moved to shortstop last season.
For all of his accomplishments, LaCour has never felt comfortable being looked to for vocal leadership. Part of his insecurity stems from his talent.
Growing up, he was ahead of his peers on the baseball field, which meant the older guys wanted him around. However, his precociousness had its disadvantages.
LaCour believed he was not expected to bark encouragement or play the heavy.
"It's weird to be a leader because I haven't had to," he said. "I've been led by other people because I've played with older guys my whole life."
With 11 varsity lettermen returning, LaCour believes the Chancellors have a good chance to return to Dodger Stadium if everyone fulfills their roles. LaCour plans to do his part.
"I know what I have to do," LaCour said. "I have to talk it up."