Las Virgenes Manager George Voita thinks that his players, most of whom play at Calabasas High, get lost in the baseball shuffle. Or lost in the hills, where the Southern Section 2-A Division high school is located.
The Calabasas baseball field is located at the top of a steep hill; the program has never reached a similar pinnacle of success. The surrounding area is rich with talent, a fact that prompted Voita to form the Las Virgenes team this summer. Additional seasoning is a must, he says, if the high school team is to succeed.
“Calabasas is a sleepy little town between Taft, Chatsworth and Westlake (highs),” he said. “I think we get overlooked by most people.”
Las Virgenes, which has won five games in a row and is in second place in the District 20 Western Division at 9-5, ranks as one of the surprises of the season. A pair of players also have gone from the ranks of the anonymous to the honor roll of District 20 standouts.
Harold Turk, a right-hander who tossed a two-hit shutout in a 2-0 defeat of Eagle Rock on Sunday, is 2-0 and has allowed one earned run in 18 innnings. Turk was academically ineligible to play for Calabasas as a senior, but the layoff hasn’t hurt.
First baseman Paul Schaffer is batting .354 and has been supplying enough power for Voita to place him in a class with standouts such as El Camino Real’s Ryan McGuire.
Schaffer, who bats right and will be a senior at Calabasas in the fall, has 17 hits, seven for extra bases.
Apples and oranges: Voita says pumping life into the Calabasas program--the Coyotes were 10-10, 5-5 in Frontier League play this season--isn’t the only thing in the works. Schaffer plans to beef up, too.
Schaffer, 16, stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 190 pounds. And Voita said Schaffer recently joined a gym and plans to try to gain 30 pounds of muscle by his senior year. Not that he can’t whistle the ball right now.
In a game against Granada Hills at Cleveland High 10 days ago, Schaffer was promised 45 pounds of oranges by Voita if he could hit the old apple to the 390-foot sign in center field. Voita, a citrus broker, said he was simply trying to squeeze a little extra effort out of Schaffer.
“I didn’t think there was any way he could do it,” Voita admitted.
Schaffer--whose father, Rich, was an All-City Section player at Birmingham High in 1963 and played for Rod Dedeaux at USC--answered the challenge by slamming a ball off the fence.
Beyond balls and strikes: Every pitcher’s worst dream is to have a ball hit right back up the middle so hard that there is no time to react. Stacy Robertson, a right-hander for the Tracy, Calif., American Legion team, remains in a coma after being hit in the head with a batted ball in a game Friday in Stockton.
The line drive hit Robertson--who will be a senior in the fall--in the right temple with such impact that it reportedly bounded into the third-base dugout on one hop.
A nurse who was in the stands told local newspapers that Robertson’s pulse and breathing stopped shortly after she arrived at the mound. After he was revived by the nurse, Robertson underwent 3 1/2 hours of surgery at Stockton’s St. Joseph Hospital.