COLLEGE BASEBALL : His Style Is Picture Perfect for Long Beach
Don Barbara and a friend made their way to the visitors’ clubhouse at Dodger Stadium Monday night where they mugged for a photograph with San Francisco Giant first baseman Will Clark.
“I can’t wait to see that picture,” said Barbara, who plays first base for Cal State Long Beach. “Will Clark is awesome. One of the best.”
Clark is high on Barbara’s list of heroes, but it’s doubtful his picture will replace the one Barbara has of New York Yankee first baseman Don Mattingly.
Barbara, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior from San Mateo, Calif., has carried Mattingly’s picture in his uniform pocket for four years.
“It’s a superstitious thing,” Barbara said. “Wade Boggs eats chicken, and I keep Mattingly in my back pocket.”
The photo of Mattingly is covered with layers of transparent tape and remains untattered despite Barbara’s aggressive play.
But pitchers who have faced Barbara this season haven’t fared as well.
Barbara is batting .471, best in the nation among players with at least 100 at-bats. He has five home runs, 50 runs batted in and 23 doubles. He also has drawn 42 walks.
“That picture is the first thing I put in my travel bag when we go on the road,” Barbara said. “A lot of times, I’ve forgotten to take it out of my pocket when I’ve had my uniform washed. But it never gets ruined because it has been covered so much over the years.”
Barbara began using Mattingly’s picture for good luck when he played at College of San Mateo, where he established a school record for hits.
He transferred to Long Beach last season and batted a team-high .366 for the 49ers, who won the Big West Conference and advanced to the College World Series.
Eye of the Hurricanes: Greg Erickson longed to be a Longhorn from the moment he spied the burnt orange color of Texas’ uniforms.
“I saw them in the College World Series on ESPN when I was kid,” Erickson said. “And I thought, ‘Gee, someday it would nice to be in that color.’ ”
Feeling that proximity might make Texas Coach Cliff Gustafson’s heart grow fonder, Erickson enrolled at Bacone Junior College in Muskogee, Okla., after graduating from Dana Hills High in 1987.
Last year, he batted .430 with 13 homers and 62 RBIs and, as Erickson hoped, the Longhorns came calling with a scholarship.
Erickson’s dream was almost reality--until he chose the bright orange of Miami over Texas.
“It was a tough decision,” Erickson said. “But Texas was recruiting three shortstops. Miami told me I would definitely start.”
Erickson is batting .327 with three homers and 42 RBIs. Miami (45-6) is ranked first nationally.
Interchangeable parts: There’s no shortage of shortstops at Cal State Fullerton, where an infield composed entirely of players who played the position in high school or community college has helped the Titans to first-place in the Big West Conference.
“We had to get people that could field ground balls,” said Fullerton Coach Larry Cochell, whose infield committed 89 errors last season.
Fullerton has a .970 fielding percentage in 45 games this season.
Freshman third baseman Phil Nevin, who played shortstop at Placentia El Dorado High, has 13 errors, but is still learning the position. Nevin missed fall practice because he was kicking for the Titan football team. Shortstop Kevin Farlow, a junior transfer from USC, has eight errors and junior first baseman Steve Sisco, a transfer from Moorpark College, has five.
Senior second baseman Mate Borgogno has been the key performer for the Titan defense, reducing his error total from 29 to seven.
Fullerton is 9-3 in the Big West and has a half-game lead over UC Santa Barbara and Fresno State, both 10-5. The Titans play host to UCSB this weekend, play at San Jose State before finshing at Pacific.
Long shots: Arizona State outfielder Mike Kelly hit three home runs in one game against Stanford, but it took him almost a month to complete the feat.
Kelly, a sophomore from Los Alamitos, hit two homers against the Cardinal on March 5 at Palo Alto before the game was suspended after nine innings because of darkness with the score 7-7. The game was resumed last weekend at Arizona State and Kelly hit a 12th-inning shot over the center-field wall in a 10-9 Sun Devil loss.
With 19 homers and 18 stolen bases, Kelly figures to become the second player in Pacific 10 history to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in a season. Former Sun Devil Odibe McDowell hit 23 homers and stole 36 bases in 1984.
The race is over: Stanford can clinch the Pac-10 Southern Division title this weekend when the second-ranked Cardinal plays host to last-place California.
The Bears (3-24) could break the conference record for futility set by USC in 1985 when the Trojans were 5-25.
Stanford (19-5), No. 3 Arizona State (18-9) and No. 6 USC (17-10) figure to earn berths in the NCAA tournament, which begins May 24 at sites to be determined.
No. 14 UCLA (14-16) lost two of three to USC last weekend and has concluded its Pac-10 schedule. The Bruins will attempt to catch the eye of the playoff selection committee by improving their 18-3 nonconference record in 11 remaining games.
With three weekends left in the West Coast Conference season, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine are moving toward a showdown for the conference championship.
Loyola, ranked 12th, is 21-7 and will play host to Santa Clara this weekend. Pepperdine (19-8) is at the University of San Francisco.
The Lions and Waves will meet in a three-game finale May 18-19 at Pepperdine.
College Baseball Notes
Pepperdine first baseman Dan Melendez and Loyola outfielder Joe Ciccarella are among the first 10 players invited to try out for the U.S. national team that will compete this summer in the Goodwill Games at Seattle and the World Championships at Edmonton, Canada. Melendez, the only freshman invitee, is batting .347 with nine home runs and 46 RBIs. Ciccarella, a sophomore, is batting .368.