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Southern Section Baseball Playoffs : El Toro’s McNamara Gets His Chance

Times Staff Writer

Brian McNamara, El Toro High School second baseman, has played in the shadows of two of the most publicized prep athletes in Orange County during the past four seasons.

McNamara was a backup point guard behind three-year starter Bret Johnson and seldom played basketball. He was cut from the freshman baseball team playing behind shortstop Adam Brass and only recently cracked the varsity lineup.

Whereas Johnson and Brass have earned their share of headlines and gained scholarships to Pacific 10 Conference schools in football, McNamara has quietly developed into El Toro’s most consistent hitter with hard work and perseverance.

McNamara enters the Southern Section 3-A semifinals against Saddleback at 3:15 today with a 13-game hitting streak. He has multiple-hit games in 9 of the 13 games and leads the team with a .463 batting average.

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McNamara has excelled at hitting despite recovering from a broken finger suffered in the Santa Ana Elks tournament March 28 diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt.

McNamara missed five league games because of the injury, but says his broken finger helped him develop into a better hitter.

“I’ve always tried to crank the ball, and I think I had one homer in my whole career,” he said. “When I got hurt, I learned to punch the ball for line drives. I think I have 25 hits, and all but two are singles.”

McNamara said he tried to hide the injury from his coaches. He had problems gripping a bat and raised his coaches’ suspicions in his next game when he attempted to bunt in each of his at-bats against Los Alamitos.

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“Both Adam and Chris (McCarthy) were out of town during Easter week, so I was the only one who could play second,” he said. “I worked too long to get into the lineup, I wasn’t coming out.

“I didn’t tell anyone I was hurt, but everyone knew something was wrong against Los Alamitos. That was my only hitless game all year.”

During the layoff, McNamara tried moving to left field, but he knew he was playing out of position after one inning in an intrasquad scrimmage. He misplayed four of five consecutive fly balls hit deep to left.

But when El Toro went into a midseason hitting slump, McNamara was given a second chance. He responded by hitting .500 in 10 league games and continued his hot hitting in four playoff games.

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“I’m the type of guy who just worked harder when I got cut,” he said. “The next season, I was the MVP on the frosh-soph team. I played on the junior varsity team as a junior and then came up to the varsity as a senior without a starting position.

“It took me about three weeks to adjust from the fast pace of basketball to the slower pace of baseball. Then, I got hurt and I was a little discouraged. It was hard to concentrate.

“But Coach (Tom) McCaffrey kept working with me, encouraging me. He told me if I worked hard, they’d find a place for me.”

McNamara is an honor student with a 4.2 grade-point average in accelerated classes and figures this will be his final opportunity to play organized sports.

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He serves as the school’s representative to the Saddleback Valley Unified School District school board and plans to major in political science or history at UCLA.

“This is the last hurrah for many of us on the team, and we want the title,” he said. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve dreamed of playing in the Big A.

“Right now, Saddleback is first and foremost on our minds. They’re a great team with great athletes.”


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