Malave Escapes the Bench, Leads Ventura Past Angels

Times Staff Writer

For Omar Malave of the Ventura County Gulls, life in the minor leagues often has been lonely and frustrating.

He’s playing his sixth season in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization, and he is still a backup infielder for a Class-A team. He also has a wife and an eight-month-old daughter living in his native Venezuela, neither of whom he’s seen since February.

Malave admits he’s thought of quitting.

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and I just want to go home,” Malave said. “But this is my job. I made it my job. It’s all I know. When I see my name in the lineup, I just do the best I can.”


In the Gulls’ 13-2 win over the Palm Springs Angels on Wednesday at Ventura College, Malave was penciled in as a starter for just the third time this season. His response was a 3 for 3 afternoon, including a walk, a run batted in and three runs scored.

“It’s nice to bring a man in off the bench and have him perform like that,” Gulls Manager Glenn Ezell said. “As the season progresses, he’s going to get plenty of at-bats.”

Malave, 22, who began playing baseball at age 11, was signed as a free agent by Toronto in August of 1980. In five seasons split between Bradenton, Florence and Kinston, he has compiled a .260 lifetime batting average.

This season with Ventura, Malave has managed only a .198 average in 116 at-bats. But Wednesday, he “felt great at the plate,” as did most of the Gulls.

After the Angels had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the third, the Gulls scored three runs in the bottom of the inning and six in the fourth off starter and loser Willie Fraser (6-2).

The scoring was capped by Darryl Landrum’s two-run homer, his 13th. Mike Butler came on in relief for Palm Springs and gave up four runs in the fifth, including a three-run homer to Luis Reyna, his 11th.


Meanwhile, Gulls starter Todd Provence (3-3) held the Angels to two runs over eight innings for his first win since returning to the starting lineup from a shoulder injury.

In his first start last week against Salinas, Provence lost, 3-1, which he said was very disappointing. “But Ezell helped me over the last few days with my slider,” Provence said, “and it had a good, tight break on it. I’m getting my confidence back. I just had to be patient.”

The 6-4 right-hander walked one and struck out eight before being relieved by William Shanks, who pitched a scoreless ninth.