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The Los Angeles Times 1997 ALL-VALLEY Baseball Team
| PITCHER OF THE YEAR

Another Laurel for Garland

June 18, 1997|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GRANADA HILLS — It began more than two years ago with an innocuous late-inning relief appearance and culminated June 3 with a first-round selection by the Chicago Cubs in baseball's amateur draft.

Radar guns seemed to point Jon Garland's way almost from the time he took the mound as a skinny sophomore right-hander for Kennedy High during a San Fernando tournament game against Monroe and ace right-hander Wayne Nix.

"The scouts were lined up to see Wayne Nix," Kennedy Coach Manny Alvarado recalled. "Jon comes in and pitches the final three innings and they were asking, 'Who is this guy? Where have you been hiding him?'

"I said, 'Put your tongues away. He's just a 10th-grader."'

Throughout a high school career that included a 27-4 record and 253 strikeouts in 209 1/3innings, professional scouts were certain that Garland--like his blazing fastball--was going somewhere.

That was confirmed when Garland, The Times' Valley pitcher of the year, became the nation's 10th overall pick after going 9-3 this season with 111 strikeouts and a 1.21 earned-run average in 80 2/3 innings.

"Pitching's my favorite thing," Garland said. "I have a mound in my backyard and I work on my mechanics every day."

Garland (6 feet 5, 200 pounds) displayed them while hurling a 90-mph fastball with consistency and control.

And his hard work paid off handsomely. Last week, he signed with the Cubs for a reported $1.325 million bonus.

"It couldn't have happened to a nicer kid," Alvarado said. "He's taken the whole thing in stride."

Garland did the same when Alvarado opted to start left-hander Wes Crown against Banning in the City Section 4-A Division semifinals. Banning won, 9-6, denying the Golden Cougars--and Garland--a shot at a third consecutive City championship.

"I didn't really think about that at all," Garland said. "I just wanted to go out and play. It was disappointing. But it's just a game."

And now a career.

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