Teenagers never believe the stories their parents tell about their own high school days, and Ryon Healy of Encino Crespi was among the skeptics when it came to his mother.
“I always bagged on her, ‘Mom, you were never that good,’ ” Healy said. “One day, she pulled out these articles from back in the day. I was pretty impressed. She was legit. She was the real deal.”
Laurie Healy, known during her pitching days at Woodland Hills El Camino Real as Laurie Romero, was the best player in the City Section when she led the Conquistadores to consecutive City softball titles in 1983 and 1984, going 34-1 with nine no-hitters and 23 shutouts.
Twenty-five years later, she will sit in the seats at Angel Stadium on Saturday as a proud mother watching her son try to pitch Crespi to a Southern Section Division II championship in baseball.
“It’s so exciting and tremendously nerve-racking,” she said. “I’ve decided it’s easier to play than watch your kid play.”
What she and her husband, Pat, have passed on to their 17-year-old son is a bulldog attitude of never wanting to give an inch to a batter.
Healy’s competitiveness and accuracy have made him one of the top junior pitchers in the Southland. He’s 10-0 with a 1.91 earned-run average and has 94 strikeouts and 15 walks in 74 innings.
Scott Muckey, who has been Crespi’s coach since 1987, said Healy’s ability to throw strikes puts him in the same category as the Celts’ most famous pitching graduate, major leaguer Jeff Suppan, who walked only 14 in 91 innings in 1993.
“I’d rank him right there at the top with Suppan as far as throwing strikes,” Muckey said.
“Strike throwers,” as Muckey calls them, are what he looks for every winter when he compiles statistics for his pitchers.
“Muckey is a quiet guy, and when you’re not throwing strikes, that’s the one time he’ll get on you,” Healy said. “It’s his pet peeve. If you get hit around, so be it. But if you’re throwing strikes, it’s a good day for him.”
Healy has made for lots of good days since he began this season with a 13-strikeout, two-hit shutout against Palmdale. Seemingly every outing, he gets better.
He didn’t pitch as a sophomore because the Celts were loaded with pitchers and he needed time off to recover from tendinitis in his right arm. His junior season has been a revelation, with Pacific 10 Conference schools starting to pursue him.
He enters Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. final against Huntington Beach in peak form.
“He’s gotten control of his curveball,” Muckey said. “He pretty much throws that for a strike any time he wants.”
Crespi has produced its share of outstanding pitchers in recent years. Sean Gilmartin, the closer on last year’s team, was a freshman All-American at Florida State this season. Trevor Plouffe has switched from pitching to hitting and is one of the top prospects in the Minnesota Twins organization. And Suppan is in the starting rotation for the Milwaukee Brewers.
So Healy has put himself in select company in Crespi lore, almost good enough to match his mother, though he’s a championship or two short of that. But his mother doesn’t care. She’s just going to enjoy seeing her son do something he loves.
“It’s everything you’ve hoped for,” she said.
The pride of East L.A.
What Los Angeles Salesian accomplished last week in boys’ volleyball might make a good movie on the Disney Channel.
The all-boys school, located in Boyle Heights, has a tuition of $5,500 and 60% of its students are on financial aid. The team’s coach, Elliott Walker, convinced many of the players to try volleyball by telling them, “If this was a sport for girls, think of how many girls will come to watch you play.”
San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret’s, Salesian’s opponent in the Southern Section Division V championship match, has a tuition of $20,445 and is coached by the most famous volleyball player on the planet, Karch Kiraly.
Salesian won its first championship in a four-game match.
“There’s a sport for every player, and for these kids, we hooked them up when they were freshmen and have been teaching the love of the game by going to watch Pepperdine and USC,” Walker said.
“Most of these guys found their own niche.”
Bernard Luna had 32 kills in the final and is headed to Hope International. Junior Cameron Walker, the coach’s son, had 28 kills and is receiving recruiting interest from Hawaii.
Who would have guessed that a little school in East L.A. could become a volleyball powerhouse?