Finding a successful switch-hitter in high school baseball is about as common as hitting for the cycle, which makes Kelly Dugan of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame the rarest of teenagers.
He's a 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior who has been switch-hitting since he was 8. That's when he got hit under his helmet while batting from the left side. It made him hit from the right side the rest of the season, and he hasn't stopped going back and forth since.
"I've never had a switch-hitter like him," Notre Dame Coach Tom Dill said. "He hits for average, hits for power and has good pitch selection from both sides."
Dugan is a Pepperdine signee coming off a junior season in which he batted .438 with 28 runs batted in and four home runs for a team that won the Southern Section Division III championship.
It's tough enough to hit a baseball while practicing constantly from one side of the plate, but to do it well from both sides takes a special athlete. In the major leagues, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, Pete Rose and Chipper Jones are considered among the best switch-hitters in baseball history, and Dugan, a first baseman-outfielder, has been particularly enamored with Jones.
"I would always pull my socks up like Chipper," he said. "I thought it was kind of cool I could [hit] on both sides of the plate. Nowadays, you don't see a lot of players who do it, but I think it has a lot of value."
He starts his season this week feeling stronger and finally more sound after an elbow injury two years ago took time to fully heal.
Last month, he spent two days working out in Miami with the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, well before the steroids allegations became public, and the experience left him with a better understanding where he needs to go but also how close he is.
"It was a great thing for me as a player just to see how hard he works," Dugan said. "Besides everything that's going on, he's a really nice guy and he showed me a lot of cool things about the pros and hitting techniques."
He fielded ground balls with Rodriguez, worked on agility drills and watched him lift weights.
"My favorite was seeing him actually hit," he said. "He's one of the best. I learned how far I have to go, but also it made it realistic to see how close the opportunity is."
Dugan is starting to eclipse his father, Dennis, in the family hierarchy, and that's hard to do. Dennis is a big-time Hollywood director who has guided Adam Sandler on such comedies as "Happy Gilmore" and "Big Daddy" while also acting in movies. He played the role of private eye Richie Brockelman on the 1970s TV series, "The Rockford Files," which excited Dill.
"When I said, 'You're Richie Brockelman,' Kelly kind of rolled his eyes," Dill said. "I said, 'Don't roll your eyes at Richie Brockelman because . . . the "Rockford Files" was quality acting.' "
Dennis has been a devoted Notre Dame fan and parent, but he's starting work on a new movie with Sandler that will film in Massachusetts, which will cause him to miss some baseball games.
"It kills me," he said, "but I'm not missing any Crespi games."
It's season No. 50 for Stevenson
One of the most remarkable accomplishments is that John Stevenson is entering his 50th season as baseball coach at El Segundo. He has won 30 league championships and had his team reach the playoffs 41 out of 49 seasons, with 1,036 career victories.
This Thompson can hit
Trayce Thompson of Santa Margarita, the son of former NBA No. 1 draft pick Mychal Thompson, gave up basketball this year to concentrate on baseball, and the UCLA-bound outfielder is ready to show he made the right decision. He's 6-3, 200 pounds with good speed and improving hitting skills.
The Doogie Howser of coaches
Todd Wolfson, 24, has West Hills Chaminade in the Southern Section Division IV-A basketball championship game in his rookie season as coach. Some wondered why Chaminade would have hired an inexperienced junior varsity coach. Because the man knows fundamentals and knows how to communicate.
A dream match in volleyball
Mark down March 27 on your calendar. That's when Manhattan Beach Mira Costa, ranked No. 1 in Division I boys' volleyball, will play No. 2 Los Angeles Loyola in a 7 p.m. match at Redondo. Loyola has won nine section titles. Mira Costa has won six.
"I've been waiting for this," said 6-8 Robert Feathers of Loyola, one of the top sophomore volleyball prospects in the nation. "I'm so stoked. It's been a big dream to start at Loyola and play Mira Costa since I was little."