SIMI VALLEY — Maki Kramer was just doing what he was told. He didn't expect a knife in his back.
As a K mart rookie stock boy, he didn't know his job included chasing down armed shoplifters. Now Kramer is just hoping his back wound heals enough so he can pitch for Westlake-Royal in the American Legion Area 6 playoffs this week.
"I'm planning on playing," Kramer said. "I'm going to keep (the stitches) in to pitch so the cut doesn't bust open."
This whole mess for Kramer, a recent Royal High graduate, started last week on his fourth day on the job at the store in Simi Valley. He was loading merchandise onto shelves, when a store security guard asked him to come outside and help apprehend some shoplifters.
"I didn't know I had to help out the security guards, but I was new there, so I just said OK," Kramer said.
Kramer and the guard waited in the parking lot for the two teen-age shoplifters to leave the store. When they did, the guard grabbed one of the shoplifters, but the other ran.
Kramer chased him.
About a quarter-mile away, Kramer found the culprit hiding in the bushes.
"I grabbed him and threw him on the ground," said Kramer, who is 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. "I had him face down in a (wrestling hold). He had a knife with him, and he reached around and stabbed me in the back."
Kramer at first didn't know he had been stabbed. But as he escorted the shoplifter back to the security guard, Kramer felt "something sticky on his back," he said.
It was blood, dripping from a two-inch wound near his right shoulder blade. Doctors closed the wound with three stitches.
"The only thing I'm worried about now is pitching," Kramer said.
Kramer was told not to play baseball for 10 days, meaning the earliest he could pitch in the Area 6 playoffs would be Saturday. Westlake-Royal must win Thursday or Friday to remain alive Saturday in the six-team double-elimination tournament.
And Kramer would be quite a loss if he weren't able to pitch. He is 4-0 with a 1.21 earned-run average in Legion play.
This spring at Royal, Kramer was 9-1 with a 2.02 ERA and was selected to The Times' All-Ventura County team.
Westlake-Royal Coach Mike McClure said he was not surprised at the way Kramer was injured.
"He's not one of those guys who just stands around and watches things happen," McClure said.