Damwijk Chills With Memphis
Hiram Damwijk, a former Sylmar High and College of the Canyons infielder, has been experiencing Elvis sightings since arriving in Memphis, Tenn., last fall to play college baseball.
“There’s all kinds of Elvises out here,” he said. “Who’s the real one, I don’t know.”
The biggest challenge for Damwijk isn’t picking out the real Elvis--it’s staying warm.
“It took awhile to adjust to playing in 20-degree weather,” he said. “We go down into the teens sometimes. I played up in Louisville [Ky.], snow is coming down and we’re playing.”
Damwijk, last season’s Western State Conference player of the year, is starting at second base for the University of Memphis. Entering this week, he was batting .236 after 26 games with six home runs and 15 runs batted in.
Against Mississippi State, he hit a game-tying, two-run home run over the center-field fence in the top of the ninth inning.
“It was a 425-foot bomb,” Damwijk said. “That’s the highlight of my career so far. Last year, I was watching Mississippi State playing in Omaha.”
As a player from Southern California going to school in the South, Damwijk said he’s enjoying the slower lifestyle. But he had to buy a big jacket to deal with the cold weather.
“It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon and you can still see your breath,” he said. “It’s the first practice where I had to wear a [stocking cap]. But I wanted to get away and see something different.”
As the weather heats up, Damwijk hopes so will his batting average.
Former Highland catcher Casey Cheshier has the highest batting average among starters at San Jose State.
Cheshier transferred from Cal State Northridge after the program dropped baseball briefly last June. He’s hitting .364 with a team-leading 43 RBIs and six home runs. He was recently selected Western Athletic Conference player of the week.
“I just got into a groove right off the bat,” said the 21-year-old Cheshier, a junior who’s playing third base for the Spartans.
Cheshier said there were many chaotic days last June when he was frantically searching for a school to attend after Northridge’s program was canceled.
Several schools called but few had any money for scholarships--except San Jose State.
“It was a real reality check,” he said.
Cheshier said he still talks with former teammates from his Northridge days, but he has learned college athletics “is a business.”
“It forced me to grow up a lot,” he said.
Former Newbury Park pitcher Chris Thogersen, a freshman at the University of San Francisco, has become a reliable starter for the Dons.
Thogersen pitched a six-hitter to beat Pepperdine last week, striking out 10 and walking none.
For the season, he’s 5-2 with a 5.54 earned-run average and 62 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings.
His roommate is freshman catcher Josh Goldfield of Calabasas. Goldfield has made 15 starts and is batting .302.
San Francisco Coach Rich Hill, a former Cal Lutheran coach, said Thogersen has grown up since his days at Newbury Park.
“Mentally, he’s come full circle,” Hill said.
Thogersen also made some changes in his pitching mechanics, improving his balance and tightening his arm angles.
“They didn’t expect me to be starting, but after my first game at Hawaii, I started proving myself,” Thogersen said.
Former Chatsworth catcher David Sark has started 32 games as a freshman at California. He’s batting .304 with 23 RBIs.
Former Hart pitcher Bobby Graves, a freshman at Oklahoma, has a 4.05 ERA and one save in 11 appearances. He has walked 13 and struck out 10 in 13 1/3 innings.