Game’s Learning Curve a Steep One at Fairmont


A white Ford stretch van pulls up to the baseball field and five players dressed in gray pants, matching school T-shirts and dark green baseball caps pile onto the sidewalk adjacent to a dusty diamond in need of dragging.

It’s time for another off-campus baseball practice at the Trident Center for Fairmont High, a small, private college prep school in north-central Anaheim where the average Scholastic Assessment Test score is 1,314 and athletics are secondary to study halls, exams and honors events.

At the wheel of the van, first-year baseball Coach Mark Alves adjusts his sunglasses and hopes he will have at least eight boys at practice. He knows he will have far fewer than the 12 he has on the roster. Alves has yet to have his entire squad together at one time, and, although most Southern Section teams already have played a dozen games, the Huskies’ season opener is still a week away. Four games have been called off because Fairmont didn’t have enough players available.


“This is totally an educational setting,” Alves said. “To them baseball is secondary to education. In their situation, where parents are paying $8,000 to send a kid here to learn, I can understand where they’re coming from.”

Fairmont has been around 40 years as a grade school, but the secondary education program, with no athletic facilities and about 180 students, is only four years old. This spring it will graduate its first high school class--28 students.

Fairmont offers 10 sports and the school is buying about six acres next to its location on Sequoia Avenue with plans to build an athletic field and gymnasium.

“In five years, possibly, we hope to start a football program,” Athletic Director Mike Halasz said.

A new batting cage was on campus when the players returned from spring break this week. But with no on-campus diamond, Alves knows it will be a long process building a respectable program. The Huskies finished 0-10 in their first season of varsity competition in 1996.

“With us, it’s day to day,” Alves said. “I have about three to four core guys and maybe eight guys a day out here. I’ve had two practices with 10 guys out. But in three or four years, I think we’ll have a pretty good team.”


There is no athletic class period, so players participate on their own time. Practices usually don’t begin before 3 p.m., which is tough on students who commute long distances. Freshman second baseman Dennis Im lives near Sunny Hills High in Fullerton. Senior third baseman Ryan Gaytan and freshman pitcher/first baseman Brian Papez live in Diamond Bar and freshman infielder Rudy Flores lives in Yorba Linda.

Further, students at Fairmont are expected to apply to prestigious colleges. That means lots of studying and hard work. Classes are small.

“You get a lot more attention here than you would get in a public school,” senior shortstop Omar Hashmy said.

Gaytan, who will major in history and economics in the fall at USC, says he spends as much as four hours a night studying after baseball practice.

A tenth of a point here or there on a grade-point average could be costly.

Alves, who has six years’ experience as a varsity assistant at Mater Dei and Irvine, tells the story of a straight-A student and baseball player. When his grade-point average dropped to 3.8 on a four-point scale at the end of last spring, his parents were horrified and would not let him play this year.

“There are excellent academics here,” Im said. “But everything you do here affects you. You just can’t slack off a bit.”


Alves said he knew when he was hired at Fairmont he would have to start from scratch because 10 of his 12 players had no previous high school baseball experience. But he wasn’t prepared for how much he would be tested.

At his first team meeting he talked about equipment, taking each piece out of a bag one at a time. Among other things, he told the boys that each was responsible for buying an athletic supporter commonly known as a “cup.”

At the end of the meeting, a player approached Alves.

“He said his mother had a whole pantry full of cups and he wanted to know if he could bring one of those instead,” Alves said. “The kid was serious. They don’t wear that kind of stuff normally.”

But the flip side, according to Halasz, is that the Huskies make up for their lack of experience with a great capacity to learn.

Terry Gaunt, coach of Academy League power Capistrano Valley Christian, agreed, saying that Fairmont is doing what it has to now to set the tone for future years.

“They are extremely organized,” Gaunt said. “In a couple of years they will be stronger. They’re not going to be the pushovers of the league. We know already that when we go to play them, we have to be prepared. We can’t look at it as if they are a break in the schedule.”


Gaytan, however, is realistic in discussing why he went out for the team.

“I enjoy baseball,” he said. “I’m not the greatest player in the world, but I enjoy having a good time out here.”

Senior utility player Pradeep Prasad, who scored 1,520 out of a possible 1,600 on his SAT exam, says he enjoys the break from his studies. Prasad, who dabbles in engineering but specializes in mathematics, plans to become a surgeon.

“I heard about the team from a couple of friends,” he said. “They said they didn’t have enough guys to make a team and I wanted to get involved in a sport.”

But he acknowledges the pitfalls of small school ball.

“Sometimes we don’t have enough guys to do all the drills we need to,” he said. “That is sort of frustrating.”

Alves unloads the van at a recent practice as a couple of players arrive in private vehicles, the sixth and seventh to show up. They carry four bases, a bucket of balls and a fungo bat. Most players have cleats. Some have tennis shoes.

There is, perhaps, a half dozen years of youth baseball experience between them, but Alves is patient and the session moves quickly.


After an hour of shagging balls in the outfield, hitting the cut-off man and base-running drills, the team surrenders the motley diamond to a youth baseball team, twice its size, which has priority for its use.



* Location: 2200 Sequoia Ave., Anaheim

* Student body: private, 4-year coed

* Enrollment: 180

* Annual tuition: $7,400

* League: Academy

* Nickname: Huskies

* High school founded: 1993

* Athletic Director: Mike Halasz

* Sports offered: 10

* Baseball Coach: Mark Alves

* 1996 record: 0-10

* Notes: Student population expected to grow. Plans to purchase six acres at current location for classroom expansion, gymnasium, playing fields. May add sports in future, including football.