Poor Is a Real Catch for Harbor College : Baseball: After struggling through his first semester at Texas, the former El Segundo High standout returned home and became a Seahawk.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although Jeff Poor's baseball career has taken a few surprising turns, the latest one has benefited Harbor College in a big way.

Poor, a two-time All-Southern Section catcher at El Segundo High, accepted a scholarship to the University of Texas last summer. He struggled academically and decided to stay home and enroll at Harbor when he returned for Christmas break.

"I call it a good Christmas present," Harbor assistant Bob Anderson said.

The timing was perfect. Scott Poe, a freshman catcher from Peninsula High, injured an arm and the Seahawks were searching for a replacement.

"We were real glad to have (Poor)," Harbor Coach Tony Bloomfield said. "It was a non-competitive spot. All he needs is experience to become one of the top catchers we've had here."

The 6-foot, 190-pound Poor batted .475 and led the South Bay with 11 home runs as a junior. He also had 14 doubles and a school-record 54 runs batted in, the third-highest season total in Southern Section history.

Although he batted .452, drove in 38 runs, had 10 doubles and six home runs as a senior, Poor's stock dropped. He received only one Division I college scholarship offer--from Texas--and a disappointing blow from the pros; he was picked in the 47th round of the 1992 draft by the Dodgers.

"He was a better player than where he got drafted," El Segundo Coach John Stevenson said. "It's tough for a kid that gets a lot of attention early in his career. When a kid is well-developed, (pro scouts) don't see a giant improvement because the kid is already good. He was an early bloomer. He was a force as a sophomore."

Poor is batting .333 for the Seahawks, who are 14-5-1 and 5-1-1 in the South Coast Conference. He has 23 hits and 14 RBIs.

"They guy's having some great games," said Poe, who has recovered from the arm injury. "He's hitting in clutch situations and he's coming through when it's needed."

Poor, 18, hopes to make an impact on pro scouts this season. If he gets drafted high enough, he will turn professional. If not, he plans to return to Harbor.

He hasn't ruled out returning to Texas for his last two years of college.

"It was tough to leave a situation where the future looked so good," he said. "I gave up a lot by leaving there. . . . I wasn't ready for the academics. It had nothing to do with baseball. I really bombed in school."

Despite being drafted in the 47th round, scouts are optimistic that Poor can play professionally.

"He's a good prospect with a good chance to make it professionally," said Jack French, a scout for the San Francisco Giants. "He's a good ballplayer with good power and he has good size and a strong arm."

Harbor assistant Anderson compares Poor to Rene Lopez, who signed with the Minnesota Twins despite suffering a knee injury during the playoffs last season.

"Jeff is large like Rene and he has similar arm strength," Anderson said. "He's from the old school of catchers. He's big and strong, with an excellent arm. I think he has a definite chance of going a long way in pro baseball."

Although Poor lacks power at the plate, Bloomfield said it is no reason for concern.

"He still doesn't have consistent power, but he has the power in him," Bloomfield said. "By this time next year, he'll hit the ball out of the ballpark on a regular basis."

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