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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Marlins' Mike Stanton is living the dream of many high school players

Young slugging outfielder from Notre Dame High visits Dodger Stadium, where prep championship games will be staged this week.

May 29, 2011|Eric Sondheimer

This is the week teenage dreams get fulfilled or crushed. High school championship games are set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Dodger Stadium, and the lucky players that make it will be forever grateful for the experience.

I was reminded again about what makes playing at a major league ballpark so captivating when I dropped by Dodger Stadium over the weekend to speak with Mike Stanton, the 21-year-old Florida Marlins outfielder who graduated from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame only four years ago.

There was his uniform hanging in the visitors' clubhouse. There was his name written above his locker. Most of his former high school classmates are still in college or working. They follow him on TV, read about him in the newspaper or wait to learn what he's thinking when he makes a post on Twitter.

"Reach for the stars so if u fall you'll land on a cloud."

"Going to spend some time with my good friend Gym. He's going to make me stronger."

I started following Stanton on Twitter last fall, and his inspirational Tweets reinforced what I had come to admire about him during his high school days. He was courageous for playing three sports when others told him he shouldn't and his positive attitude was always refreshing.

"It can take years to earn respect, but it only takes one day to lose it."

"In order to be the best, you must learn from the best, no matter what they are best at."

Most of Stanton's one-liners come when he has free time during the off-season.

"Whatever comes to my mind I play with it and get a nice saying out of it and I Tweet it," he said.

Stanton has hit 11 home runs this season and is on his way to becoming one of the best power hitters in baseball. He's going to be a terrific spokesman for the game because of what he stands for.

"Happy Birthday to Vin Scully. Thank you for making me love baseball so much growing up. 83 and still going strong!"

"Doors will open once you find the missing key."

Stanton reminded everyone what's so powerful about a major league player returning to his hometown.

"We come here once a year, and it's always going to be special for me just having all my friends and family who I grew up with be able to come out and watch me," he said.

The high school players who make it to Dodger Stadium this week will get to feel like major league players. Their parents will take pictures. They'll wave to classmates in the stands. They'll get to sit in the dugout, look up at the scoreboard and soak up the scene.

They should cherish every moment, because there's no guarantee of getting a second chance.

Stanton said that in the major leagues, "it's a mental test, a mental grind every day."

There are lots of people pulling for him, just like there will be many supporting the high school players when they step foot on hallow ground this week.

On the night before opening day this season, Stanton wrote:

"Going to sleep to dream. Then waking up to Dream."

Those are words to live by.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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