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WORLD SERIES GAME 7 / Arizona 3, New York 2 | NOTES

Barajas Is Happy He Caught On

November 05, 2001|Bill Plaschke

While USC's Randy Johnson is the best known World Series participant with Southern California ties, teammate Rod Barajas might be the most compelling.

In 1996, Barajas was a bullpen coach at Cerritos College, where he had just finished a two-year career.

His biggest claim to fame was a good summer season for the Elkhart (Kansas) Dusters in the Jayhawk Summer League, where he had once hit a game-winning grand slam over a wooden fence in a rainstorm.

His biggest break was that the expansion Diamondbacks, trying to build an organization from scratch, were looking for catchers.

Steve Springer, a scout, phoned Ron Hauczinger, a respected Southland coach who had managed Barajas at Elkhart.

"He asked me if I knew any catchers," recalled Hauczinger. "I said, 'Yeah, I got this Barajas kid, a late bloomer, not a great body, just hanging around ... but he can hit and he can catch."

Springer invited Barajas, who had played at Santa Fe Springs Santa Fe High, to a tryout camp at Golden West College.

"He didn't do anything special," Springer said. "But it was obvious, he had bat speed, and he could play."

Six years later, the baseball world sees the same thing, as Barajas finished the World Series with a homer and a single in five at-bats with one runner thrown out.

Before now, his most notable major league moment was as the catcher during the spring training game in which Johnson's fastball killed a dove.

He is still a backup to Damian Miller but, after spending most of five years in the minor leagues, folks are seeing what Springer saw.

"It was a real tough road, being a non-drafted free agent from the get-go," Barajas said. "I had a lot of people telling me I could not make it to the big leagues."

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