Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

CAMPUS REPORT

Oborn Glad to Say Bye-Bye BYU, Hello Fullerton

April 06, 1999|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Leaving Brigham Young for Cal State Fullerton wasn't easy, even though Spencer Oborn decided it was in his best interest as a baseball player.

His father had played football at BYU and his older sister was an All-American volleyball player there.

Provo, Utah, where the campus is located, is a quaint college town at the foot of some of the best skiing around. "I liked everything about the school," Oborn said.

But when you're a talented baseball player, not a world-class skier, Provo has one big drawback: weather.

"Last year we practiced outside only one time before we played our first game of the season, and we had to drive three hours just to be able to do that," Oborn said. "We had to play our first 22 games of the season on the road, and that's not easy either."

Oborn is back in Southern California this season, playing only a few miles down the freeway from his family's home in Diamond Bar. Oborn hoped the move would turn out for the best, and he's certain now that it has.

Oborn, batting .412 with 39 runs batted in, has helped make the Titans (27-6) one of the nation's top teams again. He extended his hitting streak to 32 games--the second longest at the school--last weekend at Pacific. The school and Big West Conference record is 38, set by Brent Mayne, now with the San Francisco Giants.

There was a lot at stake for Oborn in his move. A right-handed hitting outfielder, Oborn had been one of the top hitters in the Western Athletic Conference for two seasons. He hit .426 with 64 runs batted in last season after hitting .403 with 75 RBIs as a freshman. He had 15 home runs each season.

"I didn't want to come here and not play, or not do well," he said. "But things have worked out. I'm where I need to be."

Oborn was playing at Diamond Bar High when Mark Kotsay led the Titans to the 1995 College World Series championship, and he remembers that excitement.

"My friends and I would come to a lot of those games," Oborn said. "Kotsay was sort of my idol. I don't ever remember him not hitting the ball hard. I was in awe of his talent, and I dreamed about playing at Fullerton."

But BYU offered him a scholarship. Oborn says he thinks most schools probably expected him to go to BYU, which might have limited recruiting interest.

Titan Coach George Horton says he was aware of Oborn as a high school player but didn't try to sign him. "We thought he was a good-looking player, but we had plenty of outfielders in the program then," Horton said.

After two good seasons with the Cougars, however, Oborn decided to consider other options. He didn't have to look beyond Fullerton.

"I wanted to be a better player," Oborn said. "Being an outfielder, I felt I needed to be playing outside more than I could at BYU. I didn't think I was improving defensively. At Fullerton, everyone gets better every day. It's that kind of program."

Oborn also worried about how he was being viewed by major league scouts. "I don't think they respected the numbers I put up there," Oborn said. "Players at the cold-weather schools don't get the recognition that the players do at the warm-weather schools."

Horton said the move was not without some risk for Oborn.

"He wasn't assured of anything with us," Horton said. "He had to come in and win a job, and he did that. But anyone who hits over .400 two years in a row, can hit the ball. The league he played in before isn't as strong as ours, but he was one of the dominant hitters.

"We saw right away that he was good at going to the opposite field, and he might be our best hitter at getting the extra base since Dante Powell. He's above-average in everything he does. He's having a great year."

Oborn has 21 extra-base hits and has taken over the No. 3 spot in the batting order. He has stolen 14 bases in 18 attempts.

Oborn is on a pace to challenge Kotsay's school-record .422 season batting average, but he has company. First baseman Chris Beck (.441) and designated hitter Aaron Rifkin (.452) also are having big years.

Oborn appears to be taking the hitting streak in stride. "It's been fun, but I'm not putting any emphasis on it," Oborn said. "If it keeps going it's great."

Oborn got off to a slow start. He went two for 10 to start the season and wasn't in the starting lineup for three games. "I think I was sort of playing scared because I wanted to play so badly," Oborn said. "But then I decided I had no control over anything except what I did, and focused on that. In those games I didn't start, I did well when I got in, and that gave me confidence."

BYU Coach Gary Pullins was disappointed that Oborn decided to transfer.

"He has that great demeanor for the game, the way Kotsay does," Pullins said. "He plays with a smile on his face. He's the kind of hitter who can look bad on a pitch, then come back and beat you on that same pitch. He's good at putting the ball in play, and doesn't strike out much."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|