Mission College outfielder Gary Matthews is one player who apparently made a wise move by not signing to play professionally after the San Diego Padres picked him in the 13th round of last year's June draft.
His market value might be considerably higher after this season.
Matthews, a switch-hitter from Granada Hills High and son of the former major leaguer whose name he bears, led the Free Spirit with seven home runs (five left-handed) as of Wednesday.
He was second in batting (.359 average) among players with 100 or more at-bats and third in runs batted in with 26. Last season, he batted .320 with two home runs and 22 RBIs.
"He is playing more like a man than a little boy," Mission Coach John Klitsner said.
The Padres own the rights to Matthews until the June draft, but that hasn't discouraged other teams from scouting the sophomore. Matthews also was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 38th round out of Granada Hills High.
"There's a lot of interest in him right now," Klitsner said. "He's our top professional prospect. He has gotten stronger and his bat has some juice to it."
Homeless Brahmas Roll
Operating without a place to call its own hasn't hampered the drive toward a possible state championship for the Pierce men's volleyball team.
The Brahmas, who have been forced to practice and play matches in neutral courts because the school gym was condemned after the Jan. 17 earthquake, are 14-0 overall and lead the Western State Conference at 13-0.
"This team is a very cohesive group," Pierce Coach Ken Stanley said. "They have not been very spirited in practices but they have done everything we've asked them to do."
But, Stanley said, few people would be overly excited during 1 1/2-hour workouts that call for the players and coaches to gather at 5:45 a.m. at Valley College, where the Brahmas now practice and play their home matches.
"It's hard to walk in that gym at that hour and be fired up," Stanley said.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
There's a fine line separating fearless and foolhardy.
Some might think Northridge right-hander John Najar straddled the line.
Najar, who broke a bone in his right forearm last weekend while throwing a pitch in a game against San Diego State, knew he had a hairline crack in the bone for three weeks. After experiencing extreme pain in the forearm all season, Najar finally had it examined after a victory over Cal State Sacramento on March 19.
Once it was determined the bone was cracked, Coach Bill Kernen offered to let Najar sit as long as it took for the problem to mend. Najar was told by physicians that if he continued to pitch, the bone might break completely.
Najar weighed the risks. Already sidelined by an arm injury was Keven Kempton, another member of the three-man starting rotation. Najar also hoped he might be drafted in June.
"We were running out of guys," Najar said. "I had to (step) up for the team."
Obviously, Najar demonstrated an ability to pitch in extreme pain, which might be enough for some folks to question his sanity. But pitchers are a breed apart.
Said Najar: "It hurt like hell, but I wanted (the ball)."
A month ago, the Northridge baseball team hit its high-water mark for the year. A stirring comeback capped a three-game sweep of nationally ranked Hawaii at Northridge as the Matadors jumped atop the Western Athletic Conference West Division standings.
Tempers flared during the series, replete with an obscene gesture from a Hawaii infielder. Matador players wondered aloud how they would be received by fans in Honolulu.
Well, Hawaii's nose dive continued. In fact, the Rainbows are dead last in the WAC West at 4-8, and so much for the much-anticipated showdown.
Then again, junior first baseman Jason Shanahan, who made the trip to Honolulu last year, said there probably wouldn't have been much venom from the Rainbow fans anyway.
"They mostly kind of sit back and eat their snack bar food until Hawaii gives them something to cheer about," Shanahan said. "It's not the loudest place we play. It's hard to say (how we will be received now)."
Last season, Northridge won one of three games at Hawaii, which plays in 4,300-seat Rainbow Stadium, considered one of the best facilities in NCAA Division I. It has a synthetic surface and measures 340 feet down the lines and 400 to center. The outfield wall is 12 feet high.
In other words, it isn't exactly homer-friendly Matador Field.
"It's a huge yard," Shanahan said. "For the most part, you try to stay normal (with the swing), but we can't hit 15 flies a game and expect to win. You need line drives there; anything else doesn't turn out real well unless you absolutely cream the ball."
Has Marty Slimak been hanging around with Sparky Anderson too much?
During the course of a short interview this week, Slimak, Cal Lutheran's baseball coach, referred to one of his players as "short for his size" and said another was "young for his age."