1993 TIMES: All-Valley Baseball Team : PLAYER & PITCHER OF THE YEAR : Pitcher Perfect : Jeff Suppan: Red Sox came calling after Crespi right-hander delivered on mound and at plate.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Poor Jeff Suppan.

It's really a sad story. The kid had to come home early from his vacation in Cancun, Mexico, to pitch in an all-star game.

The Crespi right-hander recently arrived late for a party because he had to get his picture taken to go with his Times' Valley player of the year award.

As if all that is not inconvenient enough, Suppan now has the burden of deciding between honoring his full scholarship to pitch at UCLA or just taking the six-figure bonus that likely will be waved in his face by the Boston Red Sox.

"Yeah," he said, "It's tough."

He smirks. Suppan knows he's got it pretty good for an 18-year-old, but he works so hard to hide it.

"I try not to think about it," he said. "Once you do, you lose your edge."

The modesty is no act. He really doesn't remember in which game he hit that grand slam, just that he was "lucky the wind blows out at Valley (College)," where he hit it. He ought to have some recollection of the game April 21 against St. Bernard, though, because he also pitched a shutout and struck out 15 that day.

That game, one of six shutouts he pitched, came in the middle of a 42-inning scoreless streak. The streak, which was among the longest in Southern Section history, included a no-hitter against Harvard-Westlake, Suppan's first since his freshman year.

"That was a special moment because I felt like I made my mark throwing one as a freshman," Suppan said. "Then I couldn't do it for two more years. When I finally got another one, it was like a cap for my four years."

Suppan's numbers can be arranged in a variety of ways to quantify just how dominating he was. The basic stats are an 11-1 record and 0.92 earned-run average. Beyond that are his 52 hits allowed in 91 innings, or his 127 strikeouts and 14 walks.

But consider these:

-- After his first start of the season, when he was scheduled to go only five innings, Suppan threw the last pitch in every game in which he appeared. He completed his 11 remaining starts and saved two games.

-- Suppan allowed only 15 runs. He produced more than that on his 11 home runs alone. Suppan, who played first base when he did not pitch, scored 30 runs and drove in 51. He batted .480, with a slugging percentage of .950.

All that is nice, he said, but for others to discuss.

"It was such a fun team to play on that I never thought about what I did as long as we won," Suppan said.

The Celts, who finished 27-3, were ranked as high as second in the nation by USA Today and began the Southern Section playoffs seeded No. 1. A 2-0 loss to eventual champion Esperanza in the semifinals ended Crespi's season and Suppan's high school career.

Two days later, though, he got a call from the Red Sox. Although Suppan was projected to go in the first five rounds, he was shocked when he learned he was the 49th player selected in the draft.

Last year, the average bonus among the 25 second-round selections who signed was more than $152,000, not including money for college that some teams provide.

Could Suppan turn that down to go to UCLA?

"It's a tough decision," he said. "But I know whatever happens will be the best thing for me. In either case I will be playing baseball, so that will be good."

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