Chad Redfern is a huge reason Valley Chatsworth is in the American Legion regional playoffs.
He’s also a big reason his father is alive to witness it.
Pete Redfern, a former major league pitcher, was paralyzed in a diving accident when Chad was 2 years old.
“I almost died three times,” Pete said of the October day in 1983 when he dived into the ocean in Newport Beach, landing in two feet of water.
“When you almost die that many times and you don’t, you understand that God must have a reason for you to be around. Chad is a very big reason.”
Even to the casual observer, their relationship is more than that of father and son.
“It’s obvious there’s something very special there,” said Coach Matt LaCour of Valley Chatsworth.
“I can talk to him like he’s my best friend,” Chad said of his father. “I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
Said Pete: “The relationship we have is one I cherish deeply. He’s my best friend.”
Pete, at one time the pitching coach at Chatsworth, took a similar position at The Master’s College, but retired in 1996 when he found himself concentrating more on Chad’s games.
Rarely is Pete’s wheelchair not pulled up next to the fence, where he can get a good view of his son.
It was there last week for the American Legion state tournament in Yountville, where Pete led Sylmar-San Fernando to the 1973 state title and a berth in the World Series.
“We had a bet that I could out-do him,” said Chad, who batted .474 and hit five home runs in five games to earn the tournament’s most valuable player award.
Pete batted .540 but didn’t hit any home runs when he played at Yountville.
“But I reminded [Chad] that I had to use a wood bat,” Pete said.
Chad, a center fielder, led Valley Chatsworth to a second-place finish and a berth in the Western Region 8 tournament, which begins Thursday at Nevada Las Vegas.
Valley Chatsworth (36-6) will host Nevada at 5 p.m. in the first of three pool-play games. The semifinals will be played Sunday and the final Monday.
The winner of the regional advances to the World Series in Middleton, Conn., next Wednesday.
Opponents would be advised to pitch around Redfern, Valley Chatsworth’s No. 3 hitter.
“I know I wouldn’t pitch to him,” said teammate Mike Kunes, an All-City pitcher who will play at UCLA. “He’s just on fire right now.”
With the recent hot streak, Redfern is batting .464 with 11 home runs, 47 runs batted in and 19 stolen bases in 20 attempts, all team bests.
The 6-foot-3 Redfern weighed only 155 pounds last September, before his senior year at Chatsworth High.
Increased workouts and a steady diet of steak, potatoes and pasta have helped fill out his frame to 182 pounds and beef up his power numbers.
“I don’t think the balls I hit [in Yountville] would have traveled nearly as far had I not put on as much weight as I did,” said Redfern, who committed to San Diego State last month.
“You’d look at his frame and think how much potential there was for him to develop physically,” said Coach Tom Meusborn of Chatsworth High. “He’s really done that this summer. His work ethic has been incredible.”
Not that his numbers were shabby during the high school season.
Redfern overcame a series of injuries to bat .437 with five home runs and 24 RBIs, helping Chatsworth win the City Championship.
This summer is the culmination of a remarkable two years for Redfern and teammates such as Kunes, Matt Fisher, Scott Sellz and Ryan Robbins, who have helped Chatsworth’s high school and Legion teams to a combined record of 118-19.
Redfern, who possesses one of the region’s best outfield arms, has thrown out most runners who dared to test him.
He inherited his cannon-like arm from his father, the City player of the year at Sylmar High as a senior in 1973. Pete pitched two seasons for USC before being the first overall pick of the 1976 January secondary draft by the Minnesota Twins, with whom he enjoyed a seven-year career.
It was also an arm that provided Pete with one of the highlights of his life.
A few months after Pete’s accident, a friend placed 3-year-old Chad on his father’s lap, and Pete put his arms around his son for the first time.
“I’ll never forget that day,” Pete said. “I can’t explain the emotion that went through me.”
Valley Chatsworth will finish the season without LaCour, who is scheduled to be married Saturday.
Meusborn will coach the team on Thursday and Friday, but must leave midway through the game Saturday because he is a member of LaCour’s wedding party.
Assistant coach Mike Encinas will take over.
Should Valley Chatsworth advance to the World Series, Meusborn would return to the team.