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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

There's Nothing Crazy About His Work, on or Off Field

May 02, 2003|Eric Sondheimer

Catchers usually have a high pain threshold because their bodies are treated like punching bags.

No matter how many chest, face, shin or mouth protectors they wear, the ball usually finds the uncovered spot.

That makes Jordan Sisson of Chatsworth High the ideal catcher because he has the toughness of a middle linebacker.

"I've gotten banged up pretty good blocking balls, running into people, going through fences," he said. "But I'm just trying to help the team out by sacrificing my body."

Teammates have affectionately nicknamed him, "Psycho." He reaches an intensity level others rarely match.

"You have to slow him down from time to time and it's very hard to do," Coach Tom Meusborn said.

Communication on pop flies near home plate is critical for the safety of Chatsworth players. Otherwise, Sisson will run them over to catch the ball. He collided with third baseman Mike Fernandez last month.

"Do you understand why you should communicate?" Meusborn warned Fernandez. "We'd like you to play the next game."

One revealing example of Sisson's toughness came when he was 12 and broke two bones above his wrist while diving for a ground ball at third base during an all-star practice.

Mike Vitullo, an emergency room physician sitting in the bleachers, came out to offer assistance.

"Everybody's going, 'Oh my God,' " Vitullo said. "I say to Jordan, 'I'm going to fix this but it's going to hurt a lot more for a short time before you'll feel better.' I pulled it, reduced it, literally straightened it out. You hear it cracking. Jordan screamed real loud, then went, 'Oh, thank you, Mr. Vitullo.' "

Two years ago, Sisson punched a hole into a wooden backstop while attempting to catch a pop fly.

"He runs out of room and puts his knee right through the wood," Meusborn said.

Last season, pitcher Justin Cassel was having trouble picking up signs during a night game, so Sisson borrowed nail polish to paint his fingernails red. Nothing fazes him.

Sisson is a 6-foot, 190-pound senior batting .381 with nine home runs and 34 runs batted in for the Chancellors (24-1), ranked No. 1 in the Southland by The Times. He had two two-run home runs Thursday in a 7-5 West Valley League victory over Granada Hills.

Whatever the assignment, he tries to excel. He has a 3.8 grade-point average and won a state award as a freshman for an exam dealing with physics, algebra and geometry.

During a bus ride to Las Vegas last month, while most of his teammates were sleeping, listening to music or playing cards, Sisson spent 2 1/2 hours doing his physics homework. He has committed to UC Davis and wants to become a corporate attorney.

He loves to debate, whether the issue is sports, politics or music. One of the first times varsity players met him was on a bus ride during his sophomore season. They saw him banging his head repeatedly as he listened to rock music on headphones.

"I love my music," he said. "Queens of the Stone Age, Social Distortion, Slayer, Testament ... I listen to it all. When I have my music on, I go into my own world."

He played club soccer for eight years before giving it up when he reached high school, but he credits his soccer experience for helping his speed and athleticism.

"Soccer really transforms an athlete," he said. "It gives you a tremendous amount of ability, agility and fitness. Soccer is by far one of the hardest sports and really demanding on the body and makes an [average] athlete into a great athlete."

If Chatsworth players are ever lacking in energy or excitement, all they need to do is take a look at Sisson for inspiration.

"The guys expect me to give 110% regardless what's in the way," he said. "I've raised a few eyebrows. They know I'm high energy. I've always been pretty hyper. When I was younger, everybody thought I needed medication because I was going off the walls bouncing around."

Now, it's balls bouncing off his body and bat that makes Sisson perform so well in baseball.

*

Senior pitcher-shortstop Steven Wright from Moreno Valley Valley View has been holding his own against two more highly publicized players in the Ivy League, pitchers Jojo Reyes of Riverside Poly and Zech Zinicola of Riverside Arlington.

Wright is 7-0 with a 1.24 earned-run average, plus he is batting .508 with 16 doubles.

*

When it comes to coaching versatility, Rob DiMuro of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame keeps raising the bar. He has won league championships coaching boys' basketball and girls' golf. Now he has the Knights in first place in Mission League softball in his first season as coach. He also has coached girls' basketball and football.

"He does a great job getting the girls motivated," Athletic Director Kevin Rooney said.

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Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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