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Written by Mike Terry, Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 17 May 2012 01:59

Catcher Ricky Obando Is One Of Ten Chatsworth Seniors Hoping To Bring The City Section Baseball Championship To Chatsworth For the First Time Since 2009

MIKE TERRY/SFVS

Pillar Of Strength -- Chatsworth catcher Ricky Obando, a senior, has done an excellent job of guiding the Chancellors pitching to the West Valley League title as well as being an offensive threat in the lineup.

Ricky Obando gazes across the Chatsworth High baseball field as practice is winding down and, for a moment, you wonder if he has gone back in time.

Back to last June 4, at Dodger Stadium, when the Chancellors, seeded No. 1 in the City Section Division I playoffs, were beaten by San Fernando for the title. Does he replay those final outs in his mind, of having to watch while the Tigers celebrated their first championship in 20 years?

No he doesn't. That isn't Obando's way. That's not the Chatsworth way.

You can try and take Obando back down that somewhat painful Memory Lane. But the trip will not be a long one. "They were a good team. And they got us," Obando said. "We made a couple of mistakes they capitalized on…but this is just another year.

"Sure we always want to be (at Dodger Stadium). Maybe it's an itch for some of the guys who played there last year. But (losing) is not a memory we want to relive again."

Obando, 18, a senior, is the starting catcher at Chatsworth. He is a three-year starter, and one of Coach Tom Meusborn's most trusted players – because that's what catchers have to be.

They have to have the support of the pitchers who throw to them. They have to have the confidence of the other fielders that they will be guided to the proper defensive assignment for the hitter at the plate. Most of all, catchers need to be the coolest, most unflappable guy in the game since their minds have to work as long and as hard as their bodies.

Obando has been all of that this season for Chatsworth – and more. He plays a position where defense is always more important that offense. But he has been an offensive contributor as well.

This season Obando has batted .333, with 27 hits in 81 atbats. He has eight doubles, a triple and a home run, scored 20 runs and driven in 29, the second highest total on the team. In addition, he is batting .409 with runners in scoring position.

"I think his work ethic and maturity have evolved over the three years," Meusborn said. "He's really grown into his own this year; you can see the confidence, the leadership qualities have come out. We're excited about where he is, and we're pleased with his progress over the three years."

You get the sense that Meusborn hasn't had that three- or four-year starting varsity catchers. He does say he and his staff have high performance expectations from whoever wears the mask and shin guards. And that he believes catchers are born, not made.

"You've really got to have the heart to be a catcher," the coach said. "You've got to have the passion the desire; it's something you've really got to want to do. It's gotta be in you, because it's a grind, even at the high school level. Games are won and lost with your catcher, sometimes.

"And Ricky's done an outstanding job behind the plate for us this year. It's something he takes a lot of pride in, his defense. He's been a very good offensive player for us but he takes a lot of pride in his defense."

Obando said he's been catching since age 12. And while it's not always possible to avoid the aches and bruises that come with foul tips and hard slides, behind the plate is the only place he wants to be.

"You're involved in everything. You've got to be focused. I see the whole field," Obando said. When queried about the inevitable wear and tear, he just smiled. "The legs don't hurt yet."

Although it was another solid year for the Chancellors, who are 25-4-1, they did not get the No.1 playoff seed they have received the past two years. Although they finished tied with El Camino Real for the West Valley League championship, ECR won the coin flip to be the higher seeded team. Maybe it's better this way. Obando points out that this Chatsworth squad doesn't have 2-3 dominant players who can carry a team by themselves. Instead it has been a group that must support and depend on each other to collectively succeed.

"My past two (varsity) years here, we've gone into the winter leagues, and our lineup is pretty much set," Obando said. "But this year, it's like every week we switch our lineups – whoever's hot. It's more of a team thing this year, out of necessity."

No matter where they are seeded, , the Chancellors – who won nine City titles between 1999 and 2009 – will be contenders.

El Camino Real Coach Josh Lienhard said Obando is a reason why.

"Defensively he is a good backstop," Lienhard said. "And he is a tough out at the plate. He had a big a hit at their place against us (to help win that game).

"He's got a little swagger to him. But their players all are confident and have had success. He wears that on his sleeve."

When the Division I first round games start on May 22 (following the Wild Card games of Friday, May 18), Obando said he will be locked in on one thing: the game in front of him.

"I have not been on a [City] championship team here," he said. "But we have to prepare for (the first playoff game) first because there are a lot of good teams out there. If we're lucky enough to put ourselves back in that [championship game], then yeah, of course, we want to win."

That is the Chatsworth way.

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