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Pitcher Grant Hockin got life lessons from Hall of Fame kin

High schools: Ex-Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew was a strong influence on his grandson, now a La Verne Damien star.

April 24, 2014|Eric Sondheimer

One of the greatest gifts for a teenager is when a grandfather is able to live long enough to offer life lessons that can be cherished forever.

Grant Hockin, a standout senior pitcher at La Verne Damien, was the recipient of such influential advice from the man he called "grandpa," Harmon Killebrew, a baseball Hall of Famer from the Minnesota Twins who hit 573 home runs in 22 major-league seasons.

"He always told me to treat everyone with respect and don't take anything for granted," Hockin said. "He never acted like he was bigger than anyone. He was very humble. He was known as a man of great character."

Killebrew died in 2011 at age 74 when Hockin was a freshman at Damien. If only Killebrew could see Hockin now.

He's 7-2 with a 1.35 ERA and a fastball in the low 90s. Every game he pitches, scouts come out armed with their radar guns and pencils to see and write down not only how he performs but his reactions to good and bad moments.

Hockin's level of consistency is making his senior season very special.

"He's just a workhorse," Coach Al Leyva said. "Besides the talent, he's just smart. Mentally, he gets it done. The ability is there. If he can stay healthy, you're going to see that guy pitching in the big leagues."

Hockin, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander, has signed with UCLA, so he has lots of good options for the future. What's clear is that he knows how to perform in front of a crowd. Nothing seems to faze him, particularly the scrutiny he receives from scouts trying to figure out just how good he might become.

"It's really exciting, kind of fun," he said. "I've always been used to that, because they were coming when I was a freshman. I've always thrown in front of scouts, so it's second-nature. It doesn't really bother me."

During games, Hockin's composure comes straight out of his grandfather's lessons.

"I was always taught to have an even-keel attitude," he said. "Don't really go crazy, because you don't want to have an emotional high, then come back and have an emotional low."

Last season, he got to play with his brother, Chad, now at Cal State Fullerton.

There are only weeks left in his high school career, but Hockin has done a lot of growing up over the last four years. What has he learned?

"Take everything in and don't take anything for granted," he said. "The friendships I've had here are probably going to last forever."

His grandfather hit 40 or more home runs eight times in the major leagues. No one knows what would have happened if Hockin had gotten to pitch to his grandfather in his prime, but the way the youngster goes about his daily routine, Killebrew's presence is still being felt.

It's the gift that never goes away.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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