Before a single question was lobbed his way, Judd Granzow was poised in the launching position, ready to swing away.
"Before we start, I'd like to make a few comments about my school."
You mean Faith Baptist, where your graduating class will be all of 40 seniors? The Canoga Park private school that kept your prodigious talent out of sight, out of mind until this year?
You figure Judd wants to sling some mud, take a healthy rip, a parting shot. After all, he is the \o7 right fielder \f7 at the smallest school in the Valley. How deep can a guy be buried?
Give us the verdict, Judd.
\o7 "I appreciate my school more than anyone would believe. Whether I become a baseball player, a doctor or a lawyer, I will be a better person for Faith. More parents should look at that, rather than looking at a bigger school because of the recognition their kids will get for sports. I've been taught in a personal way, the right way."\f7
Talk about Faith. As in, Keep the . . . An article of . . . Undying, unfailing, unwavering, absolute, utter . . .
Granzow possesses a dose large enough to fill his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame. It's what inspired this gazelle who can throw a ball halfway across a savannah to return to the same tiny school every year since the second grade. Now a senior, he is one of the top professional baseball prospects in the area.
Scouts by the multitude grace the campus's threadbare baseball field, suffering through games between Faith Baptist and Rio Hondo Prep just to watch Granzow take four at-bats against 68 m.p.h. fastballs and perhaps make a throw from right field.
Granzow's statistics--his .524 batting average, four home runs and three triples in nine games--don't mean much to scouts, who cannot properly evaluate whether he can hit good pitching. He also pitches, having racked up 41 strikeouts in 20 innings, but scouts consider him a prospect only as a position player.
They can see his tools--size, speed, good arm and good bat speed. He throws right-handed and bats from the left side, a plus. And after talking to him, they know he dearly wants to play professional baseball.
"He has rough edges, but he's a good athlete in a big body and, apparently, he will sign," said one scout.
Signability is as important as playing ability in evaluating talent. With Granzow, forget the stuff he said about becoming a doctor or lawyer. For all the qualities he has gained attending Faith Baptist, he isn't an outstanding student.
He has not achieved the NCAA minimum score on the SAT and his grades are so-so, denying him the option of taking a Division I college scholarship in either baseball or football.
Last fall, Granzow was the quarterback who led Faith Baptist to the Eight-Man Large Schools championship, passing and rushing for a combined 39 touchdowns.
"Scouts ask me what my plans are and I tell them that if things go well in the draft, I will sign," Granzow said. "Otherwise I will go to a junior college or a Division II school. But I don't think I will play football again."
Well-spoken and confident, Granzow also exhibits intangibles scouts seek. Greg Weiss, his coach in both baseball and football, considers Granzow a once-in-a-lifetime player.
"As talented as he is in a small-school situation where everyone gushes over him, he has remained a humble, classy person," Weiss said. "He does anything to deflect the attention and credit to his teammates. Judd is a good person."
Too nice, perhaps? One scout questioned how Granzow might adjust vaulting directly from his sheltered environment into the rough-and-tumble daily grind of minor league baseball.
He is an enigmatic blend of undeniable potential and unanswerable questions. Ultimately, Granzow will be drafted by a team willing to make a decision similar to the one that has served him so well, a team willing to take a leap of Faith.
Twice the Alemany baseball team has taken a hit and responded by hitting back even harder.
First came the transfers of Jon Tucker to Chatsworth and Eric Horvat to Hart.
Tucker, a senior first baseman who might be the top professional prospect in the Valley, struggled academically at Alemany. Horvat, a talented sophomore infielder, moved with his family to Newhall after their Mission Hills home was damaged in the earthquake.
Next came a more literal hit, an auto accident involving catcher Robby Glenn and second baseman Doug Segraves.
The pair were driving to a nonleague game against Taft last month and were plowed into by a Dept. of Water and Power truck. Glenn suffered facial cuts, Segraves a mild back injury. Alemany lost both games the players missed by one run.
Alemany's counterpunches have been devastating, however. The Indians are batting .331, averaging nine runs and 11 hits a game in surging to a 7-3 record, 5-0 in the Mission League.
All losses are by one run and they are the only team to defeat Ventura, scoring six runs in a season opener against a team that has allowed only nine more in eight games since then.
"I think that if you took all the newspaper clippings at the end of the year, a different name would be mentioned in every one," Coach Tim Browne said. "This team has grown up playing together and they play as a team.
"It's just fun to be with this group of guys."