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VALLEY NEWSWATCH / A SPECIAL REPORT: BASEBALL

March 31, 1997|Fernando Dominguez and Jeff Fletcher

Local Heroes: The Dodgers and Angels each begin their seasons this week with a Valley player in the lineup. For the Dodgers, it's a new face: third baseman Todd Zeile. The graduate of Hart High in Newhall comes home after a tumultuous two seasons in which he played for four teams. In Anaheim, left fielder Garret Anderson, a graduate of Kennedy High in Granada Hills, will begin his third season as an Angel in the outfield.

Trailblazers: Taft High in Woodland Hills has the distinction of producing the two men believed to be the only managers in major-league history with Valley ties. New Houston Astros skipper Larry Dierker was a pitcher for the Toreadors in the 1960s, and Kevin Kennedy, fired by the Boston Red Sox after last season, was a catcher at the school in the early 1970s.

Visiting Heroes: Alex Rodriguez, above, and Ken Griffey Jr., the Seattle Mariners' two young superstars, each spent about 15 minutes signing autographs before the Mariners' exhibition game against the minor-league JetHawks on Sunday in Lancaster. One of the happy recipients of a Griffey autograph was 10-year-old Jonathan Sidwell, whose family timed a visit from Red Bluff, Calif., to coincide with the Mariners' appearance. "It's the first time I've ever seen him," the excited Jonathan said as he ran off with his signed ball.

Finally: Patience has paid off for Damon Buford, a graduate of Birmingham High in Van Nuys who spent most of the last seven seasons in the minor leagues. The Texas Rangers, Buford's third team, have cleared a spot for him to be their starting center fielder this season.

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