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New League Makes Hit With Players

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Bob Anderson and Tim Ammentorp heard the voices at the about the same time last winter.

There were hundreds of high school baseball players in the South Bay area who needed a place to play in the summer.

If you build the league, they will come . . .

So Anderson and Ammentorp organized a baseball league and called it the South Bay Summer League.

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And the players came. In droves.

“At first it started out as kind of a word-of-mouth thing,” said Anderson, the coach at Bishop Montgomery High. “We called a few guys up on the phone to see if they liked the idea.”

They did. Eight South Bay high school coaches--including Ammentorp, who coaches at Redondo--responded by entering teams of returning players. No graduated seniors would be eligible to play.

Mira Costa entered. So did North and West Torrance, Westchester and Chadwick School. Miraleste entered but withdrew because of conflicts with summer football passing leagues.

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It has gotten to the point that Anderson, who secured umpires and insurance for the league and drew up schedules, has had to turn down some schools--including Santa Monica.

“We almost got too big,” Anderson said.

Roughly modeled after a Culver City league that shut down last summer, the league gives middle-echelon players--those who don’t receive invitations to play for Connie Mack teams in San Pedro and Long Beach--an opportunity to get in some summer action with teammates from the same school.

“Most of the coaches want to develop next year’s teams,” Anderson said. “They want to know who is going to be able to fill the spots left by the graduating seniors.”

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As in American Legion baseball, the teams are aligned by school. But many schools are turned away by American Legion for lack of space, so the new league gives those schools some summer league experience.

And unlike American Legion, no graduated seniors or college freshmen are allowed to play.

For several years, El Segundo Coach John Stevenson has operated two American Legion teams--one for top-notch competition and one for youth development. Torrance, South Torrance, Rolling Hills, Palos Verdes, and St. Bernard also run legion teams.

With the new South Bay Summer League, things are a lot less crowded around American Legion.

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“It’s a chance for us to get in some games against the teams in the area without facing stacked teams,” Ammentorp said. “This way we can develop our younger guys without having them being overpowered by incredible pitching. Plus there are a lot of things that come up in ballgames that you can’t anticipate on the practice field.”

There is one exception to the no-seniors rule. When Miraleste withdrew from the eight-team league, Anderson accepted a free-lance team called the South Bay Dodgers to fill the spot.

The Dodgers, coached by former Bishop Montgomery assistant Pop Ivanovsky, appear to be the class of the league with their mix of high school players and graduates.

“They’re one of the premier teams in the league, obviously,” Anderson said.

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Ivanovsky, a private batting instructor, has conducted baseball camps and clinics at his hitting school at Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes for five years.

“We’ve got a bunch of kids either in or out of high school who weren’t playing anywhere else,” Ivanovsky said. “It’s kind of a Mutt and Jeff team.”

The Dodgers have two members of Anderson’s 1990 Bishop Montgomery team: outfielder Erik Geierman and All-Angelus League shortstop Curtis Bowman.

The team doesn’t have a home field yet, but it does have Brett Campbell, a 15-year-old third baseman who hit .767 for Palos Verdes’ freshman team this season.

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“He’s hitting the ball like a man already,” Ivanovsky said.

Ivanovsky’s lineup also features Harbor College first baseman Erik Russell, former Redondo second baseman Chris Townsend and Inglewood left fielder Kyle Jackson, who will attend UC Irvine next year on a partial scholarship.

“The Dodgers are the only team in the league like that,” Anderson said. “You can only get better by playing against better players.”

So far the Dodgers are 3-0. They defeated West Torrance, 17-7, knocked off Bishop Montgomery, 15-10, and beat Redondo, 7-0, Tuesday on a two-hitter by Bowman, who hadn’t pitched in a couple of years but struck out 10 batters.

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The league also features Mira Costa right-handed ace Jason Garner, who led the Mustangs into the Southern Section playoffs as a junior, West Torrance pitcher Stefan Wilson, and Redondo right-handers Frank Bignami and Akash Sehgal.

The league cost about $450 in set-up funds. Each team will play a 17-game schedule, all mid-week games to avoid conflicts with American Legion for fields and umpires.

Anderson also has scheduled an eight-team tournament for the end of the season for Redondo and Torrance Park. Each team will be guaranteed at least three games in the round-robin tournament.

Last summer, Anderson was busy coaching an academic all-star team from California in the Apeldoorn-European Baseball Series in the Netherlands. Anderson’s Californians went 9-1 in the tourney en route to the championship.

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This summer, the South Bay Summer League is only one of Anderson’s “19 or so summer projects.”

He is also busy laying sod, remodeling his Manhattan Beach home and turning his office into a baby’s bedroom. Anderson and his wife, Melanie, expect their first child in September.

So Anderson doesn’t have time to coach Bishop’s team. He has left that task to his No. 1 assistant, Rudy Garbalosa.

His involvement with the new league is limited to scheduling and compiling scores and standings.

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“Right now, the league basically runs itself, to be honest,” Anderson said. “We just set it up and let ‘em play.”


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