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THE PREPS : High Interest Rate : Hochgesang Signed With Stanford, but Scouts Aren't Giving Up

March 31, 1995|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FULLERTON — It was a day like so many others for Sunny Hills High shortstop Josh Hochgesang.

Get up, get dressed, get to school. Go to class. Eat lunch. Grab the spikes, glove, bats and jog out to the Lancers' playing field. Work out for a bunch of people who might tell a bunch of other people to flash some serious moolah in his direction.

Major league scouts are still making regular appointments at Sunny Hills to put Hochgesang through running, throwing and hitting drills--even though Hochgesang already has a Stanford scholarship and will need some heavy-duty convincing to change his mind.

"Not everybody gets to go to Stanford, and I feel I've earned the right to go there," said Hochgesang, who signed a letter of intent in November. "Scouts aren't stupid; they know somebody going to Stanford is not only an athlete but a student also.

"The thing is, I don't play baseball for the money now. If I'm not going to go to Stanford, which I've worked hard to do, the only thing (the major leagues) can offer me is money. And it's going to have to be a pretty good offer."

Hochgesang, who leads the Lancers (9-2, 3-0) into an early but key Freeway League contest against Sonora (8-1-2, 2-1) today, is not easy to ignore.

On the heels of last year's big season--.463 average (38/82), six homers, 27 runs batted in and 18 stolen bases in 27 games--Hochgesang is off to another terrific start. He began the week batting .406, with three homers and eight RBIs. In a 7-0 victory against La Habra on Wednesday, Hochgesang homered in his first at-bat, then walked his next three times up.

Opponents are doing what they can to neutralize Hochgesang. Don't give him a 3-2 fastball to rip. Or when you do, throw it inside-- very inside.

There are times, Hochgesang admits, when he feels like a target. "Definitely. You can feel it every time you step in the batter's box. They're pitching me different than others because I can see (the difference) when someone else is up. But it's not an excuse," he said.

Not that Hochgesang needs any. He also gets some help from his teammates, especially Mike McCue and Greg Garand--who sandwich Hochgesang in the batting order. McCue is hitting .412 and Garand .464.

"Before the year started the coaches wanted to get someone who could bat in front of me and behind me," Hochgesang said. "Mike (batting second) and Greg (batting fourth) are doing a great job. If the other team doesn't pitch to me they have to pitch to Greg. And so far he has punished teams."

But there is little doubt who gets the most attention.

Scouts say Hochgesang, a 6-3 and 185 pounds, is considered a top local prospect, has a well-rounded game, moves well for his size and may sprout another couple of inches.

That begs the question whether he will outgrow the shortstop position, but Stanford Coach Mark Marquess has no plans to move Hochgesang around.

"Even though he's big he's a great athlete," Marquess said. "The pros may project him here or there but he'll come in here at short. But what you like more than his glove is his bat. Not many freshman can come in and hit in this league immediately, but I think he can do that."

Sunny Hills Coach Doug Elliott, who calls Hochgesang "one of the best I've ever had here," believes Hochgesang can accomplish whatever he wants--an any level.

"He has a great work ethic and is very dedicated to improving himself and his team," Elliott said. "Did he sign too soon? No. Any time a kid has a chance to attend a school like Stanford, he's smart to sign and let everything else fall into place."

For now, Hochgesang is concentrating on helping the Lancers, who finished second in the Freeway League last season and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

"I agree with Coach Elliott that we haven't peaked yet," Hochgesang said. "We're just starting to get the feeling I want us to have--we know how to win.

"This year's team is doing the job right--it expects to win. And the reason we do that is because we go out there and play our game, not to go down or level, or not get psyched out by someone the newspaper says is better than us. Just play our game, and after it's over see who won or lost."

As for next season, Hochgesang still has some options.

Marquess said he will "stay nervous" until his recruit is on campus. "We know he wants to come here so we'll take our chances," he said.

Hochgesang asks everyone to be patient.

"I can't lean either way right now," he said. "The scouts are asking the same question--Am I interested in forgoing college for the right deal?--and I wish sometimes I could give them an answer. But I've talked it over with parents, and I have to wait and see; because I really don't know. Money is money, and a lot of money is a lot of money. But the only thing in concrete right now is Stanford."

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