YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


After Giving Up Baseball, He Finds Home on Range

February 14, 2001|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Matt Ansis has turned his parents' North Hollywood garage into a golf fantasyland, complete with television, radio and custom-made driving range.

On school days, he'll wake up at 5 a.m., hit balls into a net for a few hours, go to school, come home at 3 p.m., eat, do his homework, then hit more balls for three hours.

"I could hit 1,000 balls a day," he said.

Ansis finished seventh in the City Section individual finals in May as a junior at North Hollywood High. He has improved his putting and short game, making him a championship contender this year.

"The sky's the limit and he has a passion for it," Coach Steve Miller said. "I don't know how good he's going to be, but he'll be good."

Not bad for a shortstop who quit the baseball team to plunge into the unpredictable sport of golf.

"Golf really fascinates me," Ansis said. "I study the swing and understand the motion going on. When I start hitting the ball bad, I have to find out what I'm doing wrong. Sometimes I've been out there all day and all night. I'd get up at 5 a.m., go to the driving range and hit balls until I find out what's going wrong."

Ansis switched sports before the start of his sophomore baseball season. He didn't like his coach, didn't like the practices and lost his passion.

"I'd go out there during games and tell myself, 'I don't want to be out here,' " he said. "I didn't like anything about the whole program. It was a real tough time because people expected me to play college ball.

"I told them I wanted to have fun, I didn't want to be wasting my time. I wanted to take up golf and most people said, 'I don't know about that.' "

Ansis has made believers out of the skeptics, although his friends who sleep past noon still give him a hard time about rising early to hit golf balls.

"They go, 'What the heck are you doing?' They think I'm crazy," he said.

Ansis hangs out in his garage at all hours hitting golf balls with his radio blasting classic rock. What more can an 18-year-old want? His neighbors don't complain.

"No one can hear," he said. "I went to my next-door neighbor and asked if it was bothering them."

The 5-foot-7, 150-pound Ansis couldn't be having more fun. Since Dec. 22, he has been on winter break because of North Hollywood's year-round schedule. He doesn't return to school until March 5, so he spends his time either at a golf course or in his garage.

"Every day, all day, all my time is dedicated to golf," he said.

And he doesn't have to worry about green fees.

"As long as I work hard at golf, my dad pays for it," Ansis said. "He's my boss."

When Ansis walks past North Hollywood's baseball field and sees players working out, he wonders, "What would have happened if I was playing."

But as quickly as someone yelling, "Fore!" Ansis regains his focus. Every time he hits a golf ball, any lingering doubts concerning his athletic future vanish.

"I love it," he said of golf.


These are scary times for former Taft High guard Ronald Gray, a freshman at Glendale College. Since he was accidentally poked in his right eye on Jan. 17 in a basketball game against Valley, he has been unable to see out of the eye.

"Everything went black," he said. "I was like, 'I can't see, I can't see.' "

He has received treatment from a specialist at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute, but the reason for his blindness cannot be determined until internal bleeding subsides.

"They said it's too much blood on the inside of my eye to tell what's wrong," Gray said.

A worst-case scenario would be that the optical nerve is detached, making it difficult to restore vision.

Gray had just become a starter for Glendale. He remains optimistic that he will regain use of his right eye.

"I've just been praying," he said. "I think I'm going to be all right. I've been holding up pretty good. If you look at me, you can't tell I can't see. It's like normal."

Gray was scheduled to undergo more tests Tuesday.


Notre Dame's victory over Harvard-Westlake last week in boys' basketball ended a 20-game losing streak to the Wolverines. . . .

Sylmar and Taft are negotiating to meet in a nonleague boys' basketball game next season. It would feature two of the region's top returning players--Steve Smith of Taft and Louis Darby of Sylmar. . . .

On last week's episode of the CBS drama "JAG," Admiral Chegwidden had to consult with the University of California at Berkeley about a computer problem. Don't be surprised if the California Golden Bears get plugged again on "JAG." Admiral Chegwidden is played by actor John Jackson, the father of former El Camino Real baseball star Conor Jackson, California's starting third baseman. . . .

After six years of lobbying and navigating through a bureaucratic maze, Birmingham's baseball field will finally have lights.

The poles have arrived from Texas, the crane is on site and it's only a matter of putting them up. Athletic Director Rick Prizant promises the lights will be working no later than March 1.

The first scheduled night game at Birmingham is March 2 between Chaminade and Birmingham at 6:30. There will be some terrific night games, including Westlake-Kennedy on March 8, Kennedy-El Camino Real on March 14, Poly-Sylmar on March 16, Chatsworth-Birmingham on April 27 and Kennedy-San Fernando on May 14. . . .

Shortstop Ryan McCarthy will become the fourth Westlake senior to accept an NCAA Division I baseball scholarship. UCLA is making a strong push to sign him, along with UC Irvine. . . .

Moorpark, with nine returning starters, including top infielders Blake Sharpe and Chris Nealon, could challenge Westlake for the Marmonte League championship. . . .

The best college pitching matchup of the season is set for Friday at 5 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Stadium, with Josh Karp of UCLA facing Mark Prior of USC.


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

Los Angeles Times Articles