Joe Klein was vacationing in Ocean City with some fellow high school graduates this month when his dad phoned. Klein couldn't believe the news: He had been drafted by the Anaheim Angels.
The Angels selected the right-handed Patuxent pitcher in the 42nd round (1,240th overall). Klein was elated and surprised.
"I really didn't think it was going to happen because I didn't have a very good season for school," Klein said.
An ankle injury early in Klein's senior season altered his mechanics and led to a sub-par campaign, he said. After going 5-1 with a 1.11 ERA as a junior, he finished 3-4 with a 3.20 ERA as a senior. He struck out 36 batters in 46 innings.
Only now, as he pitches this summer for Calvert in the American Legion's Frank Riley League, is he returning to form. In particular, his curveball is sharper than it was during the high school season, he said.
Klein committed to Delaware Tech before the draft, and he plans to play at the junior college for at least one season. The Angels will retain his rights for one year, after which he is eligible to reenter the draft. He said that choosing school over entering the Angels' minor league system was easy.
"The Angels scout wanted me to go [to Delaware Tech]" to continue developing, Klein said.
He leads a strong Calvert pitching rotation this summer. Coach Jimmy Payne said Klein's fastball routinely approaches 90 mph, and his change-up is much improved. Payne is most impressed by Klein's competitive drive.
"He's got pretty much an iron arm," Payne said. "You have to control him. You have to tell him when he's done."
Calvert's rotation also includes left-hander Adam Hoyt, a rising senior at Northern. Hoyt was named first-team all-Southern Maryland Athletic Conference after winning four games, posting a 0.99 ERA and striking out 62 in 49 innings. Patuxent's Kyle Starr and 2004 Patuxent graduate Justin Brock help round out the rotation.
"We've got some pretty good pitching," Payne said. "It's the first year I've been able to say that."
Payne said Calvert's offense is lagging behind its pitching. Jason Seufert, a former first-team All-Extra who batted .453 as a senior at Northern in 2004, is one of the best hitters in the lineup. He had eight consecutive hits at a tournament in Allentown, Pa., this summer.
Chaney's Short Bench
Defending Frank Riley League champion Chaney has only 15 players but started the season 8-3. Coach Ed Glaeser is confident his team can repeat, provided that his players hold up all summer.
"The thing is, most of the kids are versatile," Glaeser said. "We have pretty good starting pitching, and we can put out a really good starting team. But when we get into long stretches and start playing day in and day out, that takes a toll."
McDonough graduate Ben Sobocinski hit .450 with three home runs last spring and was named first-team All-Extra. He and 2004 Thomas Stone graduate Justin Arminger are two hitters Glaeser is counting on to lead Chaney's offense.
Woes at Plate for La Plata
La Plata's bats must come alive for the team to overcome its 3-8 start, Coach Dan Devitis said.
"We've lost a lot of close games this year," Devitis said. "We're putting a lot of pressure on the defense and pitcher. If the pitcher has a bad game or the defense boots the ball around, we're losing because we're not hitting."
Jacen Killebrew, a rising senior at La Plata, bats leadoff and plays center field. He batted .473 and was 19 of 21 on stolen base attempts last spring.
"We depend on him to set the table," Devitis said. "If he gets on, we know he can steal and get in scoring position right away."
Mike Tayman, a 2004 La Plata graduate, was 5-4 with 52 strikeouts in 591/3 innings at the College of Southern Maryland last spring. He returns to lead La Plata's rotation.
Hot Hitting for St. Mary's
Improved hitting should be credited for the 9-4 start by St. Mary's, said Coach Don DeGraves. "Last year at this time we were losing a lot of one-run ballgames, and this year we're on the other side of the fence," DeGraves said.
Outfielder-designated hitter Cory Jones, center fielder Gary Bell and infielder Paul Burch -- all Leonardtown products -- have led the offensive surge.
DeGraves is hoping that his team's solid fielding continues. "You make any errors, other teams are making you pay for it," he said. "That's nothing earth-shattering, I know, but that's really the way it's working out."