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Early departure has Bauer waiting for his big chance

HIGH SCHOOLS

December 29, 2008|ERIC SONDHEIMER | ON HIGH SCHOOLS

As Trevor Bauer moved from one exercise to another, with no one telling him what to do or how hard to work, a group of Newhall Hart baseball players fielded ground balls nearby under the watchful eyes of their coach.

It was a strange scene because Bauer, 17, was still enrolled at Hart, listed as a senior in school records and is coming off a junior season in which he went 12-0 pitching for the Indians.

"I try to stay away from the field as much as I can because I don't think it's fair to them to see me out here doing whatever I want," Bauer said.

Bauer has been playing the role of an alumnus who shows up to get into shape working out with the current varsity players because since early in the summer, he has been a teenager without a team.

He made the decision to skip his senior year of high school baseball to enroll at UCLA.

"It's certainly a unique situation," UCLA Coach John Savage said. "We feel it's a little easier transition being a pitcher. We're going to be patient.

"We know he's very talented."

Bauer, a straight-A student who wants to be an engineer, recently took his final test at Hart, and come Jan. 5, he'll start classes at UCLA.

"I can't wait," Bauer said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."

Bauer isn't the first high school athlete to graduate early. USC has had three early graduates in quarterback John David Booty, catcher Robert Stock and guard Daniel Hackett.

There are no guarantees of immediate success. Bauer will have to deal with the physical challenges of being a high school senior competing against 20- and 21-year-olds. Then there's trying to adapt to being away from home for the first time and having to juggle additional academic and athletic requirements.

"It's a process of big ears and small mouths and really being humble and putting yourself in the position of being a rookie in the major leagues and learning the steps of earning respect," Savage said.

Bauer's decision to leave early was easy because he had accomplished so much in baseball and in the classroom that high school had become almost boring.

"I had been ready to move on for a while," he said.

As a pitcher last season, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound right-hander struck out 106, walked 15 and had an 0.79 earned-run average in 70 2/3 innings. He threw four shutouts and had a career-high 16 strikeouts against West Torrance.

"He's as good as there is out there," Savage said.

While some wonder why he was in such a hurry to leave high school, Bauer said it was a simple quest to find new challenges.

"That's why I like to play baseball so much," he said. "Every day, every game is a competition between me and the batter.

"I found a lot of challenges in classes and baseball kind of wore off.

"I like to push myself, and I felt moving on would be a better way to present a new challenge and help myself to keep advancing mentally and physically and as a person."

And so Bauer gets a month to prove himself at UCLA before the college season begins in February.

"I can't wait to get there, but there's a lot of apprehension," he said.

"It will be an adjustment for me, but I feel there are a lot of good people in the program."

Savage might have the two best freshmen right-handers in college baseball this spring in Bauer and Gerrit Cole, a pitcher from Orange Lutheran who was taken No. 28 overall by the New York Yankees in last June draft but turned down the chance at a lucrative bonus offer.

What separates Bauer is his bulldog attitude on the mound.

Whether starting or relieving, he's comfortable, and pressure situations only make him more determined to succeed.

He thrives on pitching in big games and big moments, and that's not going to change when he arrives in Westwood.

"I'm just going to throw the best I can," he said.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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