THE HIGH SCHOOLS / SAM FARMER : El Camino Real Baseball Team Strikingly Similar to ’78 Version


There are more than a few similarities between this year’s El Camino Real High baseball team and the Conquistadores of 1978, the last year in which the school won a West Valley League title.

As did its predecessor, this season’s team employs a potent righty-lefty combination. In 1978, the right-hander was Doug McKenzie, an All-American at Cal State Northridge in 1982. The left-hander was Dave Walsh, who played at UC Santa Barbara.

Pat Treend, a right-hander who is 9-0 this season, is headed to Santa Barbara. Ryan McGuire, a left-hander with a 5-1 record, also plays first base, as did Walsh.


There’s more.

Jeff Davis, basketball coach at Canoga Park and a senior on the 1978 El Camino Real baseball team, calls the resemblance “kind of weird.”

The center fielder in ’78 was Neal Marder, whom Davis calls a dead ringer for this year’s starter, Jeff Marks. “Both were scrappy little guys who made diving catches and really hustled,” Davis said.

Davis was a right fielder and relief pitcher. Sean Boldt, this year’s starter in right field, is the team’s top reliever.

The 1978 team was coached by John DiPonzio; the 1990 team by Mike Maio, both of Italian descent.

The catcher in ‘78, Howard Dashefsky, received a scholarship to Hawaii. Dashefsky remained in Hawaii, went into broadcasting and is now the “Fred Roggin of Honolulu,” Davis said. Bobby Kim, this year’s starter, arguably is the best catcher among area City Section players.

But there are some things that the 1990 team would rather not mirror. The 1978 Conquistadores lost to Poly, 7-3, in the semifinals of the City playoffs.

“In the preseason, everybody had picked us and Granada Hills to make it to Dodger Stadium,” Davis said. “We knew Poly was going to be pretty good, but they came in and beat us.

“Poly’s always tough, they never seem to let down. Jerry Cord’s a great coach.”

Could it happen again? Poly, unbeaten this season in Valley Pac-8 Conference play, is 20-3 overall and has won 18 of its past 19 games.

The 4-A Division playoff seedings will be made next week.

Add 1978: Granada Hills fulfilled its end of the deal. In the 1978 City final, the Highlanders snapped Poly’s 21-game win streak with a 4-2 win.

Nine Granada Hills players, including a junior named John Elway, eventually would play baseball professionally or in college.

Trivia time: What do catchers Rick Dempsey of the Dodgers and Kevin Walsh of Crespi have in common?

Tummy ache: He’s giving opposing pitchers Ratanatraiphobia. Coaches are overdosing on Tums.

Highland Hall’s Tum Ratanatraiphob, who emigrated from Thailand in the third grade, stole his 40th base Thursday, breaking the school record of 39 that he set last season. With two regular-season games remaining, the Hawks (21-2, 7-0) have clinched their fourth consecutive Westside League title.

Ratanatraiphob, a sophomore, is an all-league second baseman who is batting .452 and has been on base in all 23 games. He had not played organized baseball before last season and didn’t plan to play at Highland Hall.

But Coach Dave Desmond hounded him to try out for the team last year.

“He gets on first base and we’re going to send him,” Desmond said. “It’s no secret. Coaches will scream from the dugout, ‘You know he’s going!’ ”

Name game: No matter how many extra-base hits another baseball team might accumulate, Highland Hall likely will win the area doubles title.

Doubles, as in first and last names that begin with the same letter.

Robert Ramirez, Josh Johansen, Jakob Jensen, Tommy Tominaga, and Rath (nicknamed Tum) Ratanatraiphob all play for Highland Hall.

Trivia answer: Both have hit home runs in Crespi games this season. Dempsey, a Crespi graduate, homered in the alumni game in February. Walsh hit the Celts’ only home run of the regular season two weeks ago against Loyola.

Respectable replacements: In the absence of Kevin Tate, Richard Dice and Steve Roe, who are academically ineligible, and Kirk Fellows, who is out with chickenpox, Alemany Coach Jim Ozella has turned to his younger players.

Eddie Bushey and Rob Nary, both freshman pitchers, have been promoted from the junior varsity. Bushey is batting .250 and is 1-1 on the mound.

Nary, who has pitched 11 innings, has allowed just one earned run and one walk.