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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Chris Mallon is Kennedy's next great catcher, and that says a lot

Granada Hills Kennedy High has produced All-City catchers as though it has an assembly line — 10 in all. Chris Mallon, who hit .533 with seven homers and 47 RBIs this year, is sure to make it 11.

May 13, 2012|Eric Sondheimer

There have been 10 All-City catchers produced by Granada Hills Kennedy since the high school opened in 1971, raising the question of whether there is some kind of electromagnetic field transforming its catchers into Ninja-like figures.

"No, it's the luck of the draw," Kennedy Coach Manny Alvarado said.

From past major leaguers Darryl Cias and Phil Lombardi to high school standouts Jeff Johnson, David Bourne, David Lusk, Kevin Serr, Phil Avlas, John Kane, Michael Sanchez and Branden Soto, the catcher position at Kennedy is reserved for high achievers.

And the latest, senior Chris Mallon, fits the mold perfectly. He's certain to become Kennedy's 11th All-City honoree after finishing the regular season with a .533 batting average, seven home runs and 47 runs batted in.

"He's a bona fide baseball player," Alvarado said. "He's going to play all day. He's got a dream where he wants to be, and it all revolves around baseball."

Mallon has been starting since he was a freshman, but he didn't become the catcher until his junior year.

"I just tried to do my best filling the shoes of the past catchers," he said.

From playing defense to hitting the ball with power, Mallon has been good from start to finish. When the City Section Division I playoff pairings are announced Wednesday, Kennedy (16-8) should be seeded among the top six, and teams will have to deal with Mallon.

"Experience is such a big thing in this sport because it's so mental and the more reps you get in something, the better you're going to get," he said. "I've seen a lot more than others at this level of baseball. It helps me relax and be more positive."

The good pitchers want to challenge him, but the smart ones know to be careful. He has been walked or hit by a pitch more than once in a game, and his patience and refusal to become frustrated has set the tone for the Golden Cougars.

"It's kind of different because I've been one to swing, but I've been taking pitches and being patient and letting others in the order try to knock me in when I'm on base," he said. "I wait for a pitch that I can handle and swing. If they don't throw it to me, I'll take my free base."

The 6-foot, 170-pound Mallon eats, sleeps and dreams about baseball.

"Baseball is all I know," he said. "I come to school to play baseball. I go home, I play baseball. I watch baseball. It's my love; it's my life. Being on the field is like a different feeling. It's my home."

He has a 3.5 grade-point average and has several colleges expressing interest in signing him.

What's certain is his toughness and fearlessness in playing catcher.

"I kind of like getting foul balls off the mask," he said. "You shake it off. You've got to be tough, because you will get hit."

Whether Kennedy makes it to Dodger Stadium or not this season to play in the City final, Mallon has added his name to the more than 40-year tradition of excellence at the catcher position.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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