Roosevelt: Just Wins, No Babies

Roosevelt High practices at a park that has no mound but plenty of winos. Its star pitcher wears cleats that are falling apart. Few players can afford to buy their own bats.

In contrast, Chatsworth has four game uniforms, a pristine home field with a fancy scoreboard, three batting cages and players who pay private coaches when they need to come out of a slump.

"There's so many things they have that we don't have," Coach Scott Pearson of Roosevelt said.

Despite many obstacles, Roosevelt (23-8-1) has become the first inner-city school to reach the City Championship baseball game since Crenshaw in 1979.

The Roughriders, seeded No. 15, will play top-seeded Chatsworth (30-2) in Tuesday night's championship game at Dodger Stadium because they refused to make excuses.

"The kids just worked real hard," Pearson said.

It's a breakthrough moment for a school that opened in 1923 and counts former Dodger center fielder Willie Davis and Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett as its most famous sports alumni.

"There's so much bad publicity East L.A. gets," Pearson said.

There are real neighborhood problems with gangs, delinquency and truancy, but the 35-year-old Pearson takes great pride in the commitment of his players.

"The kids are tough mentally," he said. "Instead of having one or two leaders, we've had 20 leaders. They're very respectful and very disciplined."

Valley teams have won 27 of the last 28 City Championships, but Roosevelt earned respect with playoff victories over Kennedy, Granada Hills and Poly. Those three schools have combined to win 11 City titles and reach Dodger Stadium 18 times.

For once, the boys from Boyle Heights get the chance to play against the best team from the Valley on L.A.'s most hallowed field.

"It's a big thing," Roosevelt pitcher Joram Iboa said.

Teenagers with names such as Valdez, Garcia, Gonzalez, Hernandez and Perez will inspire others to follow their path just by stepping onto the field and proving that anything is possible.

"Hopefully, this will get the kids in the community playing more baseball," Pearson said.

L.A. is a special place because of its diversity and adventurous spirit of its people.

Achievers are rewarded for daring to dream the impossible, which makes Tuesday night's City final a celebration of L.A. at its finest.

Roosevelt's success could be evidence that the Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities program is having an impact.

Several Roosevelt players participate in the RBI program that was founded in 1989 by major league scout John Young.

Major league baseball has spent $10 million since 1991 in the program that involves more than 125,000 boys and girls in 160 cities around the world.

Young, however, said high school coaches are crucial to turning around a program.

"We've got schools that don't even participate in the program," he said.

Someone should have given right fielder Alex Ramos of Bishop Amat a CD from Smash Mouth's 1999 hit single "All Star" so he could be chanting over and over, "Hey now, you're an all-star."

Ramos hit a home run over the right-field wall in the fifth inning Saturday during Bishop Amat's 8-0 victory over Ridgecrest Burroughs in the Division IV final at Dodger Stadium. It was Ramos' first home run of the season.

"It hit me once I touched home plate, 'Whoa, I hit a home run at Dodger Stadium,' " Ramos said. "It was a great feeling and I've never had that feeling in my life. It's just overwhelming to play where Shawn Green plays and Gary Sheffield plays."

Bishop Amat finished 27-2 with 11 shutout victories. Kenny Kendrena, former Cal State Northridge pitcher, deserves credit for turning the Lancers into the state's No. 1 team in his third season as coach.

It was not a good day for Westlake, which lost to Placentia El Dorado, 9-0, in the Division III final.

El Dorado didn't offer any sympathy, either.

"I think we showed them what Orange County baseball is all about," designated hitter Micah Hazen said.

Two players should be saluted for having extraordinary seasons.

Senior second baseman Gregg Wallis of Chatsworth has 53 hits, the most by a Chancellor since Bryan LaCour had 51 in 1994.

Junior third baseman Cody Haerther of Chaminade finished his season with a 27-game hitting streak. Even more impressive was the improvement he made as a fielder.

Valley College's football team is looking like a Kennedy alumni team since the hiring of former Kennedy assistant Billy Parra. The Monarchs will have six former Kennedy receivers on their roster, plus former Kennedy quarterback Ruben Zaragoza, who transferred from Cal State Northridge. . . .

Crespi's football program is getting a promising offensive lineman, 6-2, 250-pound freshman Sean Junkins. . . .

El Camino Real will begin conducting interviews for its vacant baseball coaching position on Thursday. Chatsworth assistant Matt LaCour is a leading candidate, but the competition is expected to be fierce.

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Eric Sondheimer's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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