Taloa's One Samoan Who Plays Baseball

We all know what happens to boys of Samoan descent who are inclined toward athletics. They grow up to be huge specimens of humanity who wind up playing in the NFL, usually on the defensive line.

Not so Rick Taloa. Oh, he certainly has the size- 6-4, 265. He played the requisite sport, too. But somewhere along the line, it was baseball that captured his fancy so that's the athletic endeavor he now pursues professionally.

Although he's built like a tight end, Rick was actually a quarterback at Esperanza High in Anaheim and at Santa Ana Junior College. He was good enough to be recruited to play at Northern Arizona University but when he was drafted by the Dodgers last June, decided that he'd rather concentrate on the diamond sport.

Not that getting to do that was all that easy. He'd only been chosen down in the 35th round where the bonus money for signing is skimpy but that wasn't a factor. It was rather that the scout who was supposed to do the negotiating was sick so Rick had to wait to be contacted. It was finally worked out so he signed late, then reported to Ogden.

There he found David Sutherland entrenched at first (and having a big year) plus Jason Mooneyham had signed also and was on hand. So, Rick had to wait his turn to get in some playing time. He wound up getting into 22 games compiling a .267 average with two home runs.

You might suspect that with his size, he's considered something of a power threat and you'd be right. He has earned the reputation as one who can put a ball into the next area code when he connects. It's the fact that he has often had troubled connecting consistently that pushed him down in the draft.

That's something he's been working on in the extended camp this spring. He's a right-handed hitter so taking the ball to right field has been his area of concentration. It's something his new manager Lance Parrish preaches. "Anybody can pull the ball, learning to hit to the opposite field is what makes you into a hitter," Lance maintains.

And Rick has been getting much better at that. He's been ripping some doubles to right but he hasn't neglected the power angle for he's sent five out so far. And the practice fields they play extended games on require a lethal shot to clear the barrier.

As for Samoa, it was actually Rick's grandfather who came to this land so he's really Southern California born and bred and has never ever been to the South Pacific islands where his ancestors dwelt.

He expects to go back to Ogden but hopefully this time as a regular first basemen. He's quite adept around the bag, by the way, which is not surprising considering his athletic ability. Now he just wants a chance to prove that he made no mistake in going against Samoan tradition in making this his sport of choice.