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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Granada Hills Kennedy pitcher Ryan Cruz knows how to pick them

All-City right-hander accepted a baseball scholarship to Division II Cal State Monterey Bay because of the opportunity to play and academics.

May 08, 2011|Eric Sondheimer

It takes a lot of guts to choose a college whose sports teams are known as the Otters.

Then again, All-City pitcher Ryan Cruz of Granada Hills Kennedy might be smarter than most, because Cal State Monterey Bay in Northern California is located a mile from some of the best surfing conditions in the state.

"I don't surf, but I love the beach," Cruz said.

The school is made up of 61% female students, has a student body of less than 5,000 and was formerly the Ft. Ord Army base.

Sometimes the smartest athletes are the ones who choose a college that will give them the opportunity for playing time and a good education over the ones that might be more prestigious in momentarily boosting their egos in front of friends.

Cruz had never even heard about Monterey Bay until last year. He went to a showcase on campus, got a scholarship offer this month and signed. No, he never dreamed about being an Otter.

"It's everyone's dream to go to UCLA or USC, but I was making a decision what's best for my situation," he said.

His coach, Manny Alvarado, now has another excuse to travel to Monterey Bay.

"It's beautiful," he said. "My wife and I go as much as we can."

Another All-City pitcher, Javy Lopez of Arleta, also signed with the Otters.

Cal State Monterey Bay plays NCAA Division II baseball, and the Otters might luck out in getting a potential City Section player of the year, depending on how the rest of the season unfolds.

Cruz is 7-1 with a 1.21 earned-run average entering a Valley Mission League regular-season finale against San Fernando on Friday at Kennedy. The two schools also play Wednesday at San Fernando. Both schools are 10-0 in league.

Kennedy (22-7) is a legitimate City title contender behind the 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior right-hander who turned 17 in late October. He thrives on pitching in big games. Last season, he beat the City player of the year, Jose Cardona, of Woodland Hills El Camino Real, plus All-City pitchers David Lira of San Fernando and Christian Lopez of Chatsworth.

"This is the most exciting part," he said. "The big games are the best. You have to want to be the guy. You have to want to be in the spotlight."

Cruz bleached his hair to start the season, so he was easy to spot. He also can handle adversity. He took a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning against defending City champion El Camino Real this season despite walking eight in a tightrope act that ended in a 2-1 loss.

But he didn't get down on himself.

"I was throwing on guts today," he said.

Asked what he learned, Cruz said, "You just got to use it as experience. You can't dwell on it. You just have to do better next time."

He displayed the kind of maturity and resiliency that's required in a top pitcher.

But be careful when placing a phone call to Cruz. You don't want to interrupt his massage time.

"I really like them," he said. "I feel relieved after."

Get a one-hour massage, then throw a shutout. And pick a small school near the beach. He might start a trend among his fellow pitchers.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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