The day after his team lost the City Section 4-A baseball championship to Canoga Park on Thursday night, Poly High shortstop Danny Gil studied a videotape and saw what he thought was the reason for Poly's 5-4 defeat at Dodger Stadium.
What grabbed his attention had little to do with balls and strikes or hits and errors. Thursday's turning point, according to Gil, occurred before the game began.
Poly departed from its pregame ritual. Normally, the team gathers together and watches the opposition take infield before heading down the foul line for a brief team meeting. Typically, Gil and fellow senior Joey Speakes start the discussion, which is designed to focus the players on the game.
"We usually go down the right-field line, take a knee and everyone will talk," Gil said Saturday. "Me and Joey will initiate it but soon everyone gets into it."
Nothing like that happened Thursday night, he said.
"We usually watch the whole infield, but Thursday we watched for only five minutes," he said. "Everyone got caught up in excitement and got too antsy. I guess we couldn't handle it. Guys were going in the dugout, to the bullpen, just walking around getting a feel of things. I watched the videotape and first one guy gets up, then another, pretty soon, no one was there. Then all of a sudden, everyone was gone."
Even Gil. "Yeah, even me. I got real excited. All game long I kept taking deep breaths. Right before my last at-bat my mom asked me what was wrong and I told her I just felt real tired. All the emotion, that's all it was."
Speakes didn't need a videotape to see the nervousness in his teammates.
"Usually we're loose after we have our pregame talk," he said. "But when we were in Dodger Stadium, we weren't loose at all. Some guys were off by themselves, some weren't talking at all. I could sense it then, but I thought once we get on the field, the team would loosen up a little bit. We did, but it took a while. It was a little too late then."
Gil helped Poly shake its case of the nerves when he hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to cut Canoga Park's lead to 5-4. Poly put the tying and winning runs on base but the game ended when relief pitcher Mike Roberts struck out Ali Aguilar.
"The night before I thought about hitting one out of Dodger Stadium," Gil said, "but I thought that was too far from reality. Let me just get a couple of hits. That was my dream to hit a home run in the bottom of the seventh, but unfortunately it didn't win the game."
The home run did pay one dividend--actually, 100 of them. Gil's father said he'd give him $100 if he hit a home run. Danny collected Friday.
"I'm going to use the money to buy my uniform," he said. "We got new uniforms when I was a sophomore so I'm the only one who has worn that No. 3."
Draft notices: Gil and Speakes were selected in this week's amateur baseball draft, Speakes by the San Francisco Giants in the fourth round and Gil by the Chicago White Sox (Gil didn't know when he was drafted). Gil batted .528 with 3 home runs and 40 runs batted in and Speakes hit .470 with 5 home runs, 27 RBIs and 17 stolen bases.
Alemany pitchers Bill Lucid and Mike Rooney also were drafted, Lucid in the 36th round by the Philadelphia Phillies and Rooney by the Giants, who didn't reveal in what round they drafted him, according to Alemany Coach Jim Ozella. Lucid was 5-4 with a 2.96 earned-run average and Rooney was 4-1 with a 3.80 ERA.
One coach's philosophy: Westlake High golf Coach Lorin Maygren has constructed a simple test for all prospective members of his team. "If I can beat 'em, I cut 'em," Maygren said with a laugh Saturday.
Maygren, Westlake's only golf coach since the school opened in 1978, carries a 12 handicap and regularly shoots in the low 80s. With numbers like that, the only way the 40-year-old physical education teacher could make this year's team is as coach.
Westlake's top four players have averaged 76 or lower this season, which is why Westlake is favored to win Monday's CIF-Southern California Golf Assn. tournament at North Ranch Country Club. That site is the second reason Westlake is favored. North Ranch is Westlake's home course.
When Maygren fielded his starting team this season, the Warriors never shot higher than 400 at North Ranch and consistently broke 390. The last time they played the course, the Warriors shot a school-record 371 on their way toward a third straight Marmonte League title.
In the past three years, no Westlake opponent has broken 400 at North Ranch, and no visiting team has broken 390 in Maygren's nine years.
"I think if we shoot the way we're capable, we should win," Maygren said.
Westlake has known nothing but winning since 1984, the last time the Warriors lost a dual meet. They have won 53 straight since. This season, they are 15-0 in dual meets and have won all five of their tournaments. Westlake, which finished third in the SCGA last year, has won two straight Southern Section titles and is trying to win the school's first SCGA title.
Based on past performance, the Warriors are a virtual lock. Included among the strongest entries in Monday's 10-team field are Taft, Beverly Hills, Indio and Huntington Beach. Westlake beat Taft twice in dual meets, and defeated Beverly Hills and Indio twice in tournaments. Huntington Beach lost to Westlake in three tournaments.
Westlake's top four are Jimmy Chang, Charlie Wi and brothers Chris and Mike Zambri. Rounding out the six-member team are John Darin and Craig Campbell. All six belong to country clubs and have personal coaches. So how does Maygren earn his money?
"I don't want them to be hearing one thing from their pro and one thing from me, so I don't delve into technique with them that much," he said. "They have the ability to shoot good golf but they don't always know how to control themselves. They haven't been taught how to attack a course or how to practice. I have them spend hours of time working on specific parts of the game, like chipping and putting. We spend more time hitting balls than going out and playing a round of golf. I try to put them in the right mental framework to play golf."
Chang and the Zambris also have qualified for Monday's individual competition along with Alemany's Dave Berganio. North Hollywood is the other City school in the team competition.
Casting call: Three of the Valley's top catchers head the list of area players who have been invited to today's tryouts for the South team that will play the North next weekend in a high school all-star series sponsored by the California Baseball Coaches Assn. Canoga Park's Mike Urman, Westlake's Jim Henderson and Simi Valley's Tim Laker are expected at today's all-day session at Rancho Santiago junior college in Santa Ana.
Nearly 100 high school seniors will compete in today's tryouts for 18 spots on the team. Other invited Valley players include El Camino Real's Robert Bumgarner, Poly's Danny Gil, Reseda's Matt Gilmore, Westlake's Matt Franco, Royal's Joe Summers and Donnie Pedersen of Saugus.
The series runs Friday through Sunday in San Diego. Friday and Saturday are night games at San Diego State and Sunday is a day game at the University of San Diego. Immediately after the series, an 18-member all-state team will be chosen from the two squads. That team plays a three-game series in Lodi the following weekend against an all-star team from Oklahoma.