By Rick White: CNJ presentation managing editor
Tim King says San Francisco Giants outfielder Cody Ross hasn’t changed much since the days they played together at Carlsbad High School.
Same laid-back personality, same violent swing.
“It’s really funny to watch him on TV because he acts the same; same big swing, same big smile,” said King, a teacher and coach at Marshall Middle School. “He’s always been a big-game player.”
Ross, a late-season acquisition from the Florida Marlins who was born in Portales but moved a short time later, was named the National League Championship Series most valuable player last week. His Giants have reached the World Series for the first time since 2002. They host the Texas Rangers tonight in the first game of the World Series.
“We knew he was good, but he was a different kind of good,” said King, who played two seasons with Ross at Carlsbad, including 1996 when the Cavemen won the state title when Ross was a freshman designated hitter.
“He was so little, and he had such a big swing, but he was always under control,” King said.
Portales native Logan White, the assistant general manager of scouting for the Los Angeles Dodgers, said he scouted Ross in high school and the two got to know each other well during Ross’ two seasons in Los Angeles (2005, 2006).
“We had him and Jayson Werth at the same time, and they were both emerging,” said White, a 1980 graduate of Portales High School. “He was more of a fourth outfielder, and I think sometimes players get labeled. Nobody visualized him being a corner outfielder.”
White thinks Ross could become a borderline All-Star, and could end up as the best major league player to come from the Land of Enchantment.
“He has worked himself so hard to make himself a good player. He throws well, he’s smart about the game, and he has surprising power.”
Former Clovis catcher Wes Hatley remembers there were always scouts in the stands when Ross played against the Wildcats. Ross played center field and pitched.
“He could just crush the ball,” said Hatley, who fondly recalls getting the only hit off Ross in a game in Carlsbad, even if it was an infield nubber. “He was clocked at 92 mph. He scared the heck out of us. He was a grown man mowing us down.
“He was very confident, but not cocky. He was 10 times better than anybody else on the field. You knew he was going to go far.”
Ross hit .350 with three home runs and five RBI during the six-game triumph over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS. He was even better in the previous series against Atlanta, including a home run and an RBI single in the Giants’ clinching 3-2 win.
King said even in high school Ross was a streak hitter.
“I remember a game in Roswell when he went 4-for-4 with four home runs,” King said. “But it didn’t seem like an amazing thing at that time. He just got on a good streak. Then he’d go a week or two when he would strike out a lot.
“But you could never tell the difference in his demeanor.”
Hatley said he’s followed Ross’ career closely since he was drafted by the Tigers in 1999.
“It’s neat to have someone from New Mexico to make it to the big stage,” Hatley said.