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OC HIGH: STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : Double Play : Strike or no strike, millions of Americans aspire to play Major League baseball. While most will remain spectators, content with peanuts and Cracker Jacks, a precious few will sign with professional baseball teams and live the dream. Two Orange County teen-agers, Brandon Puffer and Peter Zamora, are in the next generation of Major League hopefuls. Both were drafted straight from high school by professional teams and were recruited by colleges, too. Each has chosen a different path to make his dream a reality. : Peter Zamora: Off to College

August 19, 1994|JOSLIN GEMSCH | He will be a senior this fall at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo

Peter Zamora was a pitcher in a dilemma.

In one corner, the Pittsburgh Pirates were drafting him, urging him to become one of the new breed of professional baseball players. In the other corner, UCLA was offering a full-ride athletic scholarship.

How did this '94 graduate of Capistrano Valley High School get into such an enviable predicament? First, he was born with natural talent for baseball in a baseball family--his father is a high school baseball coach and a former San Diego Padres minor leaguer. Zamora was exposed to the sport at age 5 and "just fell in love with it."

Robert Zamora may have been most influential in his son's athletics during the high school years. Robert Zamora is a varsity baseball coach at Capistrano Valley High School and aided in his son's training.

"My dad knows everything about baseball, so if I ever had any questions I could just ask him," Zamora said. The baseball players practiced four hours a day during the season. Off-season exercises consisted of weight training and batting every other day.

Despite tendinitis in his triceps and a hematoma that prevented him from playing in the final games, Zamora managed to strike out more than 50 batters in 45 innings of his senior year. Zamora was 6-2 with a 1.53 earned-run average.

Zamora's baseball background paid off at the Area Code Tournament, in which players from one area code are matched against another. It is crucial due to its audience: In the stands sit the Major League scouts. "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, but what you show the scouts."

He showed them what they wanted to see. "I was throwing hard, and I struck out seven of the nine batters I faced," said Zamora, who also plays first base.

Then the frenzy began. The phone started ringing, and the mailbox was stuffed with letters from professional teams, such as the Kansas City Royals and Pirates.

The colleges were also making their interest known. Fresno State, USC, UCLA and Pepperdine recruited Zamora and offered him trips to their campuses. Zamora accepted a number of the proposals. "They treat you like a king! They take you out to dinner and take you to parties, and you get to know the players."

When it came down to the decision, Zamora sent his letter of intent to UCLA. "I was scared of not having anywhere to go after baseball."

Zamora's choice of college was not complicated. "I like the big atmosphere at UCLA. They will let me hit as well as pitch. They will actually play me as a freshman. I want to get stronger and better."

Zamora plans to study communications or American history. When he doesn't see himself as a professional baseball player, Zamora hopes to become a high school history teacher or a television sports analyst.

The Pirates, in the meantime, are fervently attempting to sign Zamora. Major League teams generally maintain the rights to players they have drafted for three years. Because Zamora will be playing baseball for the university, the Pirates will lose rights to him on the first day of school. "The Pirates made another offer, but I already turned it down," Zamora said.

Zamora is comfortable with his final decision and is pleased he will be able to experience college as well as professional sports. "Now that I am getting closer to playing professional baseball, it's not really a dream--it's a goal."

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