Cal League Will Be Going Extra Innings


The launching of the California Fall League in September guarantees professional baseball in the Southland a while longer this year.

Oh, wait, the Dodgers and Angels still are being tarred and feathered around that time.

But those looking for a reprieve after watching the Fox and Disney boys of bummer can check out the fall league, scheduled to operate the next three years through an agreement between the California League and major league baseball.


“What the public really will see is all-stars playing all the time,” said Joe Gagliardi, California League president.

The league is running from Sept. 23 to Nov. 5 with teams in Lancaster, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino and Lake Elsinore, each playing 42 games.

Each team is fielding a 28-man roster with players of double-A ability and below assigned by the commissioner’s office from the 30 major league franchises.

The league operated the last two years in Hawaii and Maryland, but Gagliardi said it became too expensive for clubs to sends players to the islands and subfreezing temperatures in the East prompted the relocation.

“The cost factor for us to have the league in Northern California would have been much higher because [the facilities] are too spread out,” Gagliardi said. “In Southern California we don’t have to worry about the weather and the travel is all commute.

“This kind of fits the glove easier for everyone.”


Trivia: Who is the only player from the Valley to become rookie of the year in the major leagues?


From not knowing how much he would play to becoming the most valuable player of the Class-A Midwest League all-star game on Tuesday, catcher Jon Schaeffer of the Quad City River Bandits is riding quite a wave.

Schaeffer had two hits, including a double, drove in a run and scored twice to help the West defeat the East, 4-0, at Lansing, Mich.

“I went there just trying to have fun and kind of snuck into the lineup when one of the catchers couldn’t play,” Schaeffer said. “It worked out well.”

The season indeed is going smoothly for the former Harvard-Westlake High and Stanford standout.

He leads the River Bandits with 17 doubles and is second in batting at .292 and in home runs with nine, and is third in the league with a .443 on-base percentage.

Schaeffer, 23, attributes much of his success to familiarity with the league’s pitchers. He played last year at Fort Wayne, where he batted .283 with 10 home runs and 63 runs batted in, his best production in pro ball since the Minnesota Twins chose him in the June draft in 1997.

The Twins are loaded with minor league catchers who can hit, so Schaeffer keeps plowing along without stressing over what might be in store for him.

“It’s tough when they have guys ahead of you who are just as good or better,” Schaeffer said. “Last year, I felt I had a good enough year to move up. It wasn’t in the Twins’ plans.

“Job security is very interesting in the baseball world.”


Even during his playing days in the bush leagues, Jeff Wetherby never covered so much ground.

The former Kennedy High, College of the Canyons and USC outfielder is all over the southeast United States scouting for the Detroit Tigers.

“I’ve had one car since I’ve been scouting,” Wetherby said. “It’s a 1994 Chevrolet Lumina with 196,000 miles on it. It had six miles on it when I bought it.”

Wetherby joined the Tigers three years ago and is the club’s Southeast Region scouting supervisor. He previously scouted for the San Diego Padres.

“It’s interesting work and it keeps me in the game,” Wetherby said.

Wetherby led Kennedy to the City Section title in 1981. He signed with the Atlanta Braves after his junior year at USC in 1985, when he led the Trojans with a .364 batting average and seven home runs.

He played in 52 games with the Braves in 1989, batting .208 with one home run and seven runs batted in, and later bounced around several organizations before a career-ending knee injury in 1992.

Wetherby lives in Tampa, Fla., with his wife, Dawn, and their 5-year-old daughter, Dayton, and sometimes misses being on the field. He coached at Idaho Falls of the rookie Pioneer League in 1995.

“Every single year I think about coaching,” Wetherby said. “There’s a desire to get back on the field. But this organization makes it way very comfortable for [scouts].”


Trivia answer: Gary Matthews Sr., former San Fernando High outfielder, received the award in the National League in 1973 after batting .300 with 12 home runs and 58 runs batted in for the San Francisco Giants.


Short hops: Burlington (White Sox) third baseman Ryan Hankins (Simi Valley) is tied for third in walks in the Midwest League with 49. . . . Catcher Tom McGee (Cal Lutheran) is second in batting at double-A Delmarva (Orioles) at .297 and in home runs with four. . . . Sioux City second baseman John Toven (Kennedy) is co-leader in stolen bases in the Central Division of the independent Northern League with 13 and leads the division with 12 doubles. Madison infielder Chris Vasquez (Hart, Canyons) is fifth in the division in batting at .354 and third in RBIs with 22. Former Dodger outfielder Mike Marshall, 39, of the Schaumburg Flyers is second in the division at .395.