There aren't many junior left-handed pitchers with a better curveball than Max Fried of Van Nuys Montclair Prep.
"When he's on, it can be vicious," Coach Rick Weber said.
Fried has been perfecting the pitch since he was 12, and the curveball that he has studied, examined and tried to mimic is the one thrown by Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.
"In my opinion, nothing is going to break as much as Sandy Koufax's curveball," Fried said. "Out of his hand, it seemed just like a fastball and at the last second dropped off. Hitters had no idea what was coming."
Koufax's last game for the Dodgers was in 1966, almost 30 years before Fried, 16, was born. Which brings up the question: How does Fried know so much about Koufax?
"There's lots of tapes of World Series games and a bunch of pictures," he said. "I tried to do as much research and studying as I can."
He even wrote a school report in elementary school on Koufax.
"I think I got an A," Fried said.
Fried, who is Jewish, said he admires Koufax both for his pitching skills and his importance to the Jewish community.
Fried, 6 feet 3, 165 pounds, was 10-3 last season as a sophomore for Montclair Prep. He has an 88-mph fastball and his sharp breaking pitch makes him one of the best junior pitching prospects in Southern California. On Thursday, recruiters from UCLA, Pepperdine and Arizona watched him pitch in an opening playoff game in the Valley Invitational Baseball League.
Encino Crespi Coach Scott Muckey saw Fried pitch in the VIBL all-star game and came away impressed with his curveball.
"It looks about as good as it can get," Muckey said. "The hitters certainly had no idea where it was crossing the plate."
From Aug. 5-10, Fried will be competing in the Area Code Games at Blair Field in Long Beach, a showcase for top players from around the country.
"I'm really excited playing with and against the best players in the country," he said.
With straight As, Fried intends to look for a college based on academics and athletics. But he also dreams of being a major leaguer.
For now, he intends to keep trying to "get better and better." And he's going to keep tinkering with his curveball and trying to "find things with my hand and how I throw it and make it break more."
To think his curveball might get better will be a scary thought for hitters.
One week to go
The VIBL playoffs conclude Friday, July 30 with the championship game at 7 p.m. at Lake Balboa Birmingham.
All season, teams have been using wood bats. It has changed the game. The leading home run hitter with three was Chatsworth's Steven Karkenny.
Football practice begins
City Section schools that have a zero-week game Sept. 1, 2 or 3 officially begin football practice Monday. They will have a week of conditioning drills, followed by three days of wearing helmets, a couple of days adding pads, then full contact.
Schools that begin their season Sept. 8, 9 or 10 start practice Aug. 2.
One big change for City Section schools: They are now allowed to practice on Saturdays.