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Relief for Susdorf

After an Eventful Four Days During Easter Week Tournament, Overworked Hart Bullpen Ace Gets Far Away From the Game

April 18, 2001|ERIC SONDHEIMER

"Gone fishin'."

That's the message Bill Susdorf of Hart High should have left on his bedroom door last weekend, telling friends he was taking a break from baseball.

Except no one needed a sign to figure out Susdorf was out of town. Neighbors along Wildwood Canyon in Valencia woke up to an eerie silence instead of the usual "ping, ping, ping" coming from the backyard batting cage of Susdorf's home.

For the first time in eight months, Susdorf left behind his bat and glove and joined teammate Chris Burrows on a three-day fishing trip to Canada's Campbell River, where the two caught so many trout they could have held a feast for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Susdorf arrived home Saturday night and was back hitting balls Sunday morning, feeling refreshed.

"I'm ready to go," he said. "Eight more league games left."

If anyone deserved a well-earned holiday, it was Susdorf. He pitched in seven consecutive games and came off a week in which he saved four games in three days.

Last season's Valley player of the year is batting .519 with 14 doubles and 16 runs batted in. He has seven saves and a 0.43 earned-run average for the Indians (18-1).

Nobody should be more excited than UCLA Coach Gary Adams, who signed Susdorf to a letter of intent in November. Susdorf was a USC fan growing up because his mother graduated from USC. But it was UCLA which was most persistent in pursuing him. His mother will pay a price.

"I think I'm going to buy my mother UCLA clothes every Christmas," he said.

Susdorf decided early to do whatever it takes to succeed in baseball.

When Susdorf was in fourth grade, his father asked, "Do you want to be serious or average in baseball?"

"I said I want to be good," Susdorf said.

His father bought a pitching machine, then ran 200 feet of extension cord from their house to a park so they could practice hitting for hours. They moved to a new home the next year and put in a batting cage with a mound.

No hitting is allowed before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. to keep the neighbors happy. But on game days, those rules sometimes get broken.

"Last week, we hit at 5 a.m. but used a wood bat so it wasn't as loud," Susdorf said. "Sometimes the neighbors come by in their bathrobes screaming, 'Are you freakin' nuts?' "

To protect himself from self-incrimination, Susdorf should refuse to answer that question.

What other player saves three games in two days, gets hit three times by pitches, then limps off the field to tell his coach, "I'm going to ice my arm and be ready to go tomorrow?"

"You don't see that," Hart Coach Jim Ozella said. "You have kids making excuses. He loves to play the game."

Said Susdorf: "If I'm not dead, I figure I can pitch."

Susdorf had 40 RBIs last season as the No. 3 hitter and was moved to leadoff this season in an effort to get him more at-bats. His RBI total has dropped, but he's hitting the ball better than ever.

"Last year, I got a lot stronger and hit a lot harder," he said. "This year, I'm hitting harder line drives. Even when I get out, I'm hitting line drives."

Susdorf has a 3.9 grade-point average and excels in pressure situations. When he's pitching and gets the final out, he usually lets out a roar and raises his fist in an emotional outburst, particularly if the opponent is Valencia, Saugus or Canyon--Hart's rivals.

"I love it," he said. "There's nothing like striking them out."

Susdorf's slider ranks among the nastiest pitches in the region. It can start down the middle and break inside, or start toward the batter and break over the plate. He has 17 saves in two seasons.

Don't think Susdorf doesn't enjoy himself away from baseball.

On Sunday, he participated in a family Easter egg hunt, trying to outsmart his 7-year-old sister in finding the most eggs.

Of course, he has great respect for his sister.

"She can beat up any guy that comes over," he said.

Like brother, like sister. These Susdorfs don't back down from anybody.


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


* High school baseball midseason report on D10

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