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Community College State Baseball Tournament

Shaffer's Role as Road Warrior Gives Santa Ana a Boost

May 29, 1999|STEVE KRESAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Santa Ana's baseball team is on the road for a third consecutive weekend and shortstop Josh Shaffer couldn't be happier.

Two weeks ago, the team was in Ridgecrest, where it beat Cerro Coso in the first round of the playoffs. Last weekend, Shaffer went 15 for 25 with two home runs and 12 runs batted in as the Dons won a four-team regional playoff in San Luis Obispo.

This weekend, Santa Ana (32-18) is in Fresno for the state tournament, playing Sacramento this afternoon in a first-round game.

Shaffer, who is hitting .388 with 10 home runs and 60 runs batted in, said he has enjoyed every trip and views it all as training for his ultimate goal--a job in professional baseball.

"I live for this game," Shaffer said. "It's all I want to do. All I want in my life is to play baseball. This is what makes me happy."

Shaffer's desire is understandable. He has spent his entire life watching or playing baseball, thanks to his father Duane, the director of scouting for the Chicago White Sox.

"My dad is a big part of that," Shaffer said of his love of the game. "Just going to games was always fun. I never got bored. I always wanted to grow up so fast so I could get to where I could be playing every day."

Shaffer's chance to play professionally could come soon. He was taken in the 26th round of baseball's draft by the Angels last season and the team is expected to make another attempt to sign him before next month's draft.

Even without signing a professional contract, he has already played in Dodger Stadium and Edison Field in Southern Section championship games while a member of Esperanza High's team.

Shaffer played mostly at third in high school because Esperanza had other shortstops, but Santa Ana Coach Don Sneddon believed shortstop was Shaffer's best position.

He struggled at times in the position last fall, and Shaffer said he was surprised Sneddon stuck with him. But Sneddon said he was never worried about the transition.

Santa Ana has had an up-and-down season that forced Sneddon to try several infield combinations that always included Shaffer at shortstop.

"He's been the glue that has held the infield together," Sneddon said. "He's really handled everything well."

Santa Ana Notes

This is the fifth time this decade Santa Ana has reached the state tournament. The Dons won titles in 1993, '95 and '96 and lost in the championship game in '94. . . . Freshman center fielder Richard Lane could have won the conference's most valuable player award had Santa Ana finished higher than fifth. He is hitting .394 with 15 home runs and 70 runs batted in. Sophomore utility player Joe Urban has 13 home runs and 37 RBIs. . . . Santa Ana lost two starters--freshman right-handers Josh Salazar and Jeremy Weinberg--to injury but both returned last weekend. Sophomore right-hander Michael Natalie is 8-7. . . . Sacramento, the defending state champion, beat Santa Ana, 7-4 and 10-2, in a doubleheader on Feb. 11.

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