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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Crescenta Valley's Olson, Herman Aim For Double Trouble

June 03, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER

LONG BEACH — Jordan Olson is blond, left-handed, rides boogie boards and once unleashed a live lizard in the Crescenta Valley High baseball locker room.

It's easy to envision him wearing a Bart Simpson T-shirt or serving as a stunt double in the movie, "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."

Josh Herman is president of the senior class, president of the choir club, has a 4.0 grade-point average and wouldn't dare be caught feeding sunflower seeds to gold fish.

"He and Josh couldn't be any more opposite," Falcon Coach Phil Torres said.

Meet Crescenta Valley's two star pitchers. Olson is 10-1, Herman 9-1. They've led the Falcons (24-3-1) to a berth in the Southern Section Division I final against Esperanza on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

What a remarkable performance by Olson on Tuesday in a 3-0 semifinal victory over Yucaipa. Pitching despite constant back pains, Olson struck out six, walked none and gave up five hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Watching from the stands, an admiring Crespi Coach Scott Muckey said, "He's pitching on guts."

On the eve of the most important baseball game of their teenage years, Olson and Herman weren't exactly getting pumped up by hitting at the batting cage.

Olson spent the weekend sitting in a lawn chair, shirt off, getting a tan while watching his 14-year-old sister play club softball in Irvine. Herman was at Pismo Beach, then in San Francisco traveling with the school choir club. Hey, at least they had something in common--they were in a relaxation mode.

Olson, 6 feet 3 and 155 pounds, has become one of the region's top junior pitchers because of a vicious curveball that breaks sharply away from left-handed batters and causes right-handers to swing over it. His 0.88 earned-run average is best in the region. In 71 1/3 innings, he has allowed only 49 hits while striking out 95 and walking 19.

This is a 17-year-old who celebrates life every day. Having fun is his motto. Watching him lift Torres' 7-year-old son up and twirl him around after a recent playoff victory provided a glimpse at his easy-going attitude.

"I love being a kid," he said. "I never want to grow up."

Crescenta Valley players are on alert for Olson pranks. Besides turning loose a lizard in the locker room, he put 20 goldfish in a puddle of water at Stengel Field after a rain storm. Then he removed the fish when the water dried up and put them in the clubhouse sink. He fed them sunflower seeds.

"We told him he was going to run for every one that died," Torres said.

Making Olson run is almost as much punishment as taking away his boogie board.

"I never liked running," he said. "It makes me tired."

Olson was an unsung junior varsity pitcher last season. "I never in the world thought I'd do this good," he said. "When I was on JV, nobody knew my name."

Olson started to develop during the winter; now he's in position to be a college prospect for 1999.

"He's kind of unflappable," Torres said.

Make that unshakeable, unsinkable and unbreakable.

And the best is yet to come.

"This is a big summer for me," Olson said, referring not only to beach time. "I'm forcing myself to run every day and lift weights so I can get bigger and stronger."

But don't expect him to put off his August beach excursion with friends to his grandparents' home in San Clemente. "We boogie board and lay out so we can get dark," he said.

Herman is the mature senior right-hander bound for Azusa Pacific. He has walked only 15 batters in 63 2/3 innings while striking out 64 and having a 2.20 ERA.

His two-year pitching record is 17-3. He's 5-11, 180 pounds and knows what it takes to succeed.

"I rely on hitting spots and changing speeds," he said.

He has proven he can change uniforms as quickly as Clark Kent. After a baseball game earlier this season, he had to race home to change clothes for a night choir performance.

"I was changing in the car," he said. "I got to comb my hair. I did deodorant. No one was staying away from me."

There's real passion in the way Herman approaches any assignment. It might have to do with the first-hand knowledge that it's best to make the most of each day.

His lesson comes from a family tragedy in 1994, when his 9-year-old brother, Tim, died only hours after being hit by a pitch in a baseball game. Later, it was discovered Tim had an enlarged heart.

The Herman family has since celebrated Tim's life by creating the Tim Herman Foundation Charity Tournament. Entering its fifth year, the baseball and softball tournament brings together boys and girls ages 10-16 in action June 26-29 at Crescenta Valley Park.

Tim would be proud of his big brother, Josh, and not just because the way he plays baseball. Whether pitching, singing, studying or leading, Herman never loses focus.

What a duo, Herman and Olson. Now they get to take their act to Dodger Stadium.

Security personnel, beware. "I'm going to be pumped up for that game," Olson said.

Even the normally calm, cool, mature Herman admitted, "All the time we go to watch the Dodgers play and then to be on the same mound, that's amazing."

Please somebody remind Olson that fish are not permitted in the dugout drinking fountain.

Eric Sondheimer's local column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422.

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