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DOWNEY – Downey resident Edward Ahrens was the starting second baseman on the first ever varsity baseball team in the history of Cal State Dominguez in 1972.
“The experience on the first baseball team was quite unique in many ways,” Ahrens remembered. “Six members of the team were married, two men had recently returned from military service in Vietnam, one pitcher was a full-time fireman and two other players worked the night shift at UPS.”
Dominguez Hills had a brutal schedule, didn’t have a home field and consequently played all games on the road. They played Pepperdine four times, Chapman three, U.C. Irvine, Loyola and Cal State Fullerton twice, and perennial NAIA contender Grand Canyon College from Arizona three times.
“The schedule was extremely difficult especially since we had no home field advantage and the opposing teams always had the final at-bats in the ninth inning,” said Ahrens. “We lost eight games by one run and two games against UC Riverside by two runs.”
Odd things happened all season, including when Cal State Dominguez Hills beat Pomona-Pitzer in March and the next time they were scheduled to play in April, the game was unexpectedly canceled.
Head coaches were Roy Easley and Bob Bafia, with Gary Main an assistant coach. The pitching staff was headed by Paul Masayama, Ruben Mendoza, John Costley, Collen Arceneaux, Jim Mikkelson, Richard McLeod and Pete Morales.
Top position players included Travis Thompson, Nick Medrano, Jim Drennan, Ray Nelson, David Carlisle, Vince Lopez, Ray Santa Cruz, Daryl Masayama, Steve Willis and Ahrens.
“Thompson was a super hitter and one of the best I had ever seen. Medrano was a great base stealer and later played in the Chicago White Sox organization and Masayama was a stylish left-handed pitcher,” explained Ahrens. “I believe that I had the third or fourth most RBIs behind Thompson and Medrano on the team.”
The rag-tag team lacked depth in the pitching staff and really only had one catcher for the entire season.
“We had good pitchers but didn’t have enough pitchers, especially in long relief or closer types,” Ahrens said. “Our ironman catcher, Santa Cruz, caught almost every inning including both games on doubleheaders which was truly amazing.”
Ahrens’ most memorable moment came against Biola College on May 9, 1972.
“I hit a double in the sixth inning to beat Biola by a score of 2-1,” he remembered. “Masayama pitched a fabulous complete game in the victory.”
Ahrens was not new to baseball. He had previously been voted MVP of San Gabriel High School’s varsity baseball team in 1969, and went on to play two years at East Los Angeles Junior College from 1970-71. He even earned a spot on the Pasadena Yankees semi-pro team, also in 1970-71.
“I was fortunate to play with approximately five players and against approximately 20 individuals that eventually played in the major leagues,” Ahrens recalled. “I was teammates with players like Darrell Evans, Mike Krukow and John Andrews, and competed against the likes of Fred Lynn, Randy Jones, Randy Moffitt, Jeff Burroughs, Roy Smalley Jr., Bill Campbell and Derrel Thomas.”
The best pitcher Ahrens says he faced was Curran Percival (who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox).
Ahrens graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills in 1973, attended Cal State Los Angeles and was an assistant coach at East Los Angeles College from 1975-77.
“Two of the players – Fred Martinez and Darrell Brown – from the 1975 and 1976 teams later played in the big leagues in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” Ahrens said.
Ahrens later played tournament softball for many years. He worked for the city of Maywood for 35 years, including 13 years as city manager. He retired from the city in March of 2009.
Published: July 19, 2012 – Volume 11 – Issue 14