Sean Rees, who as a sophomore last season pitched a three-hit shutout for Mission Bay High School in the San Diego Section 2-A championship game, said he enjoys the "rush" of working in a game in which everything is on the line.
"I love pitching in pressure games," Rees said. "It gets me really fired up. I think I throw better in those games than in games that don't mean anything."
But Rees, a left-hander, was a little concerned last Wednesday when he was to pitch at Clairemont. He wasn't all that worried that Mission Bay--the defending City Western League champion--trailed first-place Clairemont by a game in the standings.
Rather, he was thinking about his left shoulder and the tendinitis that had kept him from pitching for more than a month. The trouble had started during the Lions/Mike Morrow baseball tournament when he developed a blister on the index finger of his pitching hand. In trying to relieve pressure on the sore finger, Rees altered his pitching motion and strained his shoulder.
The game against Clairemont was his first pitching appearance since the injury. He promptly walked the leadoff batter.
"I was a little paranoid about my arm," Rees said. "But after that, I settled down and everything went real smoothly."
Later in the first inning, Ricky Doane of Clairemont hit a hard chopper to second and barely beat the throw to first. That was the only hit Rees would allow. Although he would walk three more batters, Rees, The Times' San Diego County high school athlete of the week, would strike out 12 en route to a complete-game shutout.
"I think that was the best game of my high school career," Rees said. "(Last year's championship game) was a more exciting game because it was a title game. But I think I had better stuff last week. I had a lot more velocity on my fastball."
Despite his arm problems, Rees and Mission Bay Coach Dennis Pugh agree the pitcher is throwing much harder this season. Rees attributes his increased strength to a variety of factors, but mainly to the exercise he had last fall when he was the Mission Bay football team's starting quarterback.
However, Pugh believes the weight training regimen Rees followed as a football player may have contributed to his arm troubles.
"I think he may have tightened himself up. Baseball and football are completely different sports (in terms of conditioning)," Pugh said. "He's not going to play football (next season) because he wants to concentrate on baseball. That's kind of dilemma for me because I'm also the varsity football coach."
Another dilemma facing Rees and his coach is one that has plagued promising baseball prospects since the days of Babe Ruth. Rees is a .400 hitter and a skilled first baseman and outfielder. He is still not sure whether he wants to be a pitcher or a hitter.
"I'm known more for my pitching, but I really love to hit," he said. "I think I'd rather play in the field because you're in there every day. In college, I'd like to do both and just see where I do better."
Rees has already decided what he will do if he is drafted by a major league team next June. Rees, who has a 4.0 grade-point average, has his eye on Stanford University, where he would like to major in chemical engineering.
"I want to go to college and get an education--that's the first thing," Rees said. "If I'm good enough at baseball, I can still get drafted after I get out."
Mission Bay High School
Position: Pitcher/first baseman/outfielder
Height, Weight, Class: 5-10, 170, Senior.
Last Week: On Wednesday, pitched a one-hitter, striking out 12, in 5-0 win at Clairemont that put Mission Bay in first place in the City Western League. Also drove in a run with a triple.