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Prep Team Was Full of Talent

October 02, 2002|Bill Shaikin; Steve Springer

NEW YORK — In 1989, the baseball team at South Hills High in West Covina included four players who would make the major leagues--Yankee first baseman Jason Giambi, Angel designated hitter Shawn Wooten, Oakland pitcher Cory Lidle and a pitcher named Aaron Small, who spent parts of five seasons in the majors, with four teams.

"The thing that's amazing," Wooten said, "is the one guy that was drafted out of high school was Aaron Small."

Giambi walked on at Long Beach State, became a freshman All-American, "and the rest is history," Wooten said.

Wooten, who will be in the Angel lineup today, said he enjoys catching up with Giambi but seldom calls. The last two times he called, Wooten said, were in December, to congratulate Giambi for signing his $120-million contract, and two years ago, to salute him for his MVP award.

"I have his cell phone number," Wooten said, "but he's a busy guy."


The Walt Disney Co. has formally asked major league officials for approval to share the Angels' confidential financial information with the Nederlander family, sources said Tuesday. That is the first step in the sale process, allowing a potential buyer to review the team's books before considering a formal bid. Approval is expected shortly, as two Nederlander brothers are minority partners in the Yankees.

Disney has not yet asked permission on behalf of Carlos Peralta, the Mexican billionaire interested in buying the team. The background check that precedes approval will not be routine in the case of Peralta, whom Mexican authorities charged with tax evasion in 1997. The charge was dropped after Peralta paid up.

Peralta attended Sunday's game at Edison Field. The Angels provided him with a luxury suite for the day, spokesman Tim Mead said, but he did not meet with any Disney officials at the game.

Donald Watkins, the Alabama businessman who has pursued the purchase of the team for months, has all but been eliminated from consideration. Disney has declined comment about Watkins, but several major league executives said Disney is no more convinced of Watkins' financial capacity than were the Minnesota Twins.

In May, after Watkins pursued the purchase of the Twins, team President Jerry Bell wrote to state legislators that Watkins had not demonstrated the ability "to secure $150 million in funds that are fully committed and readily accessible." *

The Angels' emphasis on hit-and-run plays, more so than stolen bases, will be tested tonight. Andy Pettitte, the Yankees' starter, has one of the best pickoff moves in the major leagues. Since he made his debut in 1995, he has picked off 67 runners, most in the majors during that time.


The Yankee fans didn't just heckle Angel center fielder Darin Erstad about the Angels. During batting practice, one fan heckled Erstad, a former Nebraska punter, about a Cornhusker football team that has lost its past two games by a combined score of 76-21.

Erstad turned to the fan and said, "One year out of 40, they're bad."

Bill Shaikin


With the news that Met Manager Bobby Valentine had been fired Tuesday and the media mob patrolling Yankee Stadium before the game in search of stories, Yankee coaches became the source of hot speculation.

First base coach Lee Mazzilli, himself a former Met and a former roommate of Valentine, was surrounded by reporters, but he said he had not been contacted.

Third base coach Willie Randolph, who will interview for the opening in Detroit, also was labeled a Met candidate.

And Manager Joe Torre did nothing to discourage the speculation, saying he thought Randolph would make a good manager. "Again I think just about everybody on my coaching staff would make a good manager," Torre said. "I certainly hope some of my coaches do get that opportunity when the time comes."

Torre said managing in New York was highly emotional.

"I mean, the highs are very high as we both experienced a couple of years ago in the World Series," the Yankee manager said. "when things don't go well, you get fired. We've both been fired by the Mets."

Steve Springer

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