Chatsworth Duo Teams Up At Top Of Draft
LOS ANGELES—Mike Moustakas remembers being amazed when he was little and his friend Matt Dominguez accomplished something he thought only a professional could do: hit a home run.
"My earliest memory of Matt is him hitting when we were little kids," Moustakas said. "He's the first kid I remember seeing hit a home run. It was to right field and he absolutely crushed it."
Years later, Dominguez is still crushing balls out of the park, and Moustakas has joined in the fun, giving Chatsworth (Calif.) High a record-setting pair of sluggers who could both go in the first round of June's draft.
"To have those two guys together on one team is special," said Chatsworth coach Tom Meusborn, who has seen his share of top players in a program that perennially ranks among the national elite. "I don't know if I'll have the opportunity again to coach two guys like these guys on the same team. I don't know if there are any coaches who will. To have two potential first-round guys, that's pretty rare."
By the middle of their junior season, the infielders had each shattered the suburban Los Angeles school's mark for career home runs. They entered this season sharing the record before Moustakas went on a tear that left him California's career home run leader. The lefthanded hitter's record-breaking 48th homer was his 20th of the year and came with a week left in the regular season. He struck out just twice through 28 games and was batting a team-high .537 with 49 RBIs.
Dominguez' school records include RBIs for a season and career. He challenged the state mark as a freshman when he drove in 65 runs. This year he was batting over .400 with 10 home runs through 28 games.All-Around Good Guys
Offense isn't all the duo provides. Dominguez brings Gold Glove-caliber defense, and Moustakas serves as the team's closer, where he's been clocked as high as 98 mph.
"Watching them play has always been a privilege," teammate Bobby Coyle said. "Seeing them play, it's almost like a routine what they do, it's just one amazing thing after another. I haven't seen any two players better than them."
Scouts have spent the season as regulars at Chancellors games and practices, and superagent Scott Boras is on board as Moustakas' adviser.
Moustakas and Dominguez, who have committed to Southern California and Cal State Fullerton, respectively, are about the only ones who don't consider themselves special. If someone is needed to run the scoreboard or work in the snack bar for junior varsity games, they join Chatsworth's other veterans filling in. If invitations to participate in individual events for scouts conflicted with offseason team workouts, the players usually chose the team events. When Moustakas broke the state home run record, all he wanted to talk about was his team clinching the league title. Instead of celebrating, he lingered on a sweltering afternoon to water the field.
"They don't really want the attention," Meusborn said. "Not that they are standoffish; they just want the attention on the team. You couldn't tell the difference if they were first-round guys or guys who wouldn't be drafted. They're no different from their freshman year in that sense. They're doing the same thing they've done for four years, except now when they're playing around out there after games, they're the ones spraying guys with the hose instead of getting it from the older guys."
Moustakas and Dominguez quickly fit in with the Chancellors. Moustakas has started at shortstop and Dominguez at third base since they were freshmen on a team that went 35-0 and won the second of back-to-back national championships.
"I tried to take as much advice as I could from those guys," said Moustakas, who has blossomed from a player who hit .321 with just two home runs as a freshman. "There's so much baseball knowledge around here, it's hard not to be a good baseball player. Coach Meusborn and all the other coaches, they help you so much. I can't give them enough credit."Destined To Play Baseball
Dominguez has grown up around the program, attending the team's youth camps and watching his two older brothers, including middle brother Jason, who is currently a junior righthander at Pepperdine.
"I think that's why I got so good," Dominguez said of his brothers. "I always played with them. They were really good, so I always had to work hard to keep up with them. I was playing in the backyard with my brothers from as early as I can remember. They never didn't let me play because I was too young."
If his brothers weren't around, his mother Cindy, a former softball player, would feed her son's craving for baseball.
"I've always loved to hit," Dominguez said. "I can remember when I was little, I'd tape up balls of paper and we had those little bats from Dodger Stadium. My mom would throw to me in the living room and I'd hit all day."
Motherly advice also aided Moustakas, who realized he was more successful when he simply tried to hit line drives instead of home runs. "My mom always told me home runs are just long fly balls," he said. "So I never really tried to hit home runs."
Moustakas also benefited from working with his uncle, Tom Robson, a former Mets hitting coach who would let Moustakas serve as batboy when the Mets played in Southern California.
Always a vocal and outgoing leader, Moustakas was the starting quarterback on Chatsworth's football team as a freshman, but he said there was never any doubt which sport would be his future.
"Ever since I first picked up a ball, I knew this is what I wanted to do," he said. "Even though I've always wanted to be a professional baseball player, I'm trying not to think about the draft. That's not something I can control. No matter what happens, I've got a great situation, I'd love to play at USC and play for coach (Chad) Kreuter. All we're focused on now is helping our team win a city title."
Parting ways will be the difficult part for the friends, who were also teammates last year on USA Baseball's junior team which defeated Cuba in the World Junior Championship.
"It's crazy thinking about next year," Moustakas said. "I'll look over or look down the dugout and not see him. It'll be weird. These are the best four years of my life so far and I feel like I was lucky to have him alongside me. The plays he makes on defense, I don't think I've seen a better third baseman. He's the best of the best. We've made a good pair, he's a good friend. It'll be weird to see it end."Heather Gripp covers baseball for the Los Angeles Daily News.