Feb. 22, 2011
Haddow's back in the outfield, looking in
MARK PATTON, NEWS-PRESS SENIOR WRITER
The phone rang hollow for Mark Haddow last June in the Isla Vista home that he shared with three of his UCSB baseball teammates.
Mario Hollands? It's the Philadelphia Phillies calling.
Matt Valaika? St. Louis Cardinals here.
Gunnar Terhune? Welcome to the San Diego Padres, son.
But it was a chillingly quiet Draft Day for the fourth roommate.
"The phones were ringing the whole day in our house," recalled Haddow, who will be roaming right field for the fourth-straight season today at 2 p.m. when the Gauchos play host to Westmont College.
"We were all there supporting each other," he added. "I definitely thought I was going to get drafted. But after it didn't happen, I did get a lot of calls of support."
One of those came from a stunned Bob Brontsema, UCSB's coach, who felt so badly for Haddow that even tried to stir a free-agent deal.
"We talked to scouts: 'Hey, how about it?' " he said. "They'd say, 'He didn't get drafted?' And I'd go, 'No, so how about it?' But nothing happened, even with the guys we talked to.
"He has tools, and it's really surprising that they weren't worth at least a 40th-round pick. It's shocking. It's baffling.
"There's nothing in his closet -- I know that -- where scouts might be saying, 'Watch out for that guy.' It's really confusing."
Haddow is fast and powerfully built at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. He red-shirted as a freshman and then batted .275 with 12 home runs and 29 stolen bases during three seasons with the Gauchos.
He even threw out eight base runners from right field last season -- the best of any UCSB outfielder.
And yet, nobody called on June 9.
"There was like a two-week period after the draft when I didn't know what I was going to do," Haddow said. "I'd prepared myself to leave. I was graduated. All my roommates in my class, the guys who were in my senior class, were all leaving.
"I felt kind of lost there for awhile."
He soon found his way back to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, albeit with four volleyball players as roommates.
"He worked really hard last summer," Brontsema said. "He was out here and worked on his swing a lot, to be ready earlier and get his hands through sooner so he can pull the ball.
"That's probably something the scouts didn't see before, and one of the things they might not have liked."
Haddow played during the summer with the MLB Academy Barons in Los Angeles, making the California Collegiate League's summer all-star team. He also drilled with renowned batting coach Craig Wallenbrock, who's worked with such big leaguers as former UCSB star Michael Young.
Wallenbrock added a leg kick to improve Haddow's ability to pull the ball. It paid off on opening day with a long home run over the left-field screen at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, punctuating Sunday's double-header sweep of La Salle.
"Yep, I used the leg kick," he said. He had a finishing kick on the home-run trot, as well.
Haddow wound up going 3-for-7 with two walks in the two games.
"He stole a couple of bases, got an infield hit and hit the bomb, so you saw a couple of the skills -- the speed and the power," Brontsema said. "He has a plus arm, too. Those are all pretty good things to start with.
"That bomb he hit, he's done that a few times already (in preseason scrimmages). He's made great adjustments and it might pay off for him in the long run."
The program, which hasn't received an NCAA Regional berth in a decade, is in the midst of an attitude adjustment. Haddow calls it, "Doing all the little things the right way."
Brontsema figures that the timing is right, with 14 freshmen on the roster
"We talked and begged these guys last year about it," Brontsema said. "These guys now have understood it and bought into it and have run with it, and Mark's leading that.
"You want your older guys to lead and teach your younger guys because there aren't enough coaches. One of the strengths of this team is that stuff behind the scenes, and he's a big part of it."
Haddow took part in a game-promotion video last year called "Gunnar Shades" that went viral on YouTube. The video showed Terhune, Haddow and three others wearing brightly colored leisure suits and sunglasses while dancing to the tune of Heat Wave's "Boogie Nights."
"I was the blue suit," Haddow said. "We did another video the other day, but it was actually a spoof of 'Gunnar Shades.' "
Even Brontsema had a cameo.
"That whole joke kind of overtook us last year," the veteran coach said. "It almost became more of what we were as a team than anything else, and this team is not that way.
"Last year's video was funny and it got a gazillion hits and it was this and that, but it's baseball this year, and not commercials and comedians. That's our slogan."
Haddow is just fine with that, even if this year's video didi provide him with his own June-gloom, deja-viewing parody:
"My part," he said with a healthy laugh, "got left on the cutting-room floor."
Mark Patton's column appears on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org