Should NFL owners lock out their regular players and try to field replacement teams instead, the Angels spring training camp might prove fertile ground for recruiting quarterbacks since a half-dozen of the organization's best players were also standout quarterbacks in high school.
The best might have been pitcher Bobby Cassevah, who committed to play football at Louisiana State University despite having his senior season at Florida's Pace High School wiped out by Tommy John surgery.
"I loved football the best in high school," said Cassevah, who turned his back on LSU despite the fact the Angels, spooked by the elbow operation, waited until the 34th round of the 2004 draft to take him. "[But] I think I made the right choice. Where I'm at now, I'm happy. I play fantasy football.”
Cassevah, who hurt his arm throwing a football, not a baseball, made his major league debut last season and joined a teamthat includes former quarterback Scott Kazmir, who played at Houston's Cypress Falls High. Other Angels who were top-flight signal-callers in high school include outfielders Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Mike Trout and catcher Jeff Mathis. Hunter lettered in four sports -- football, baseball, basketball and track -- at Arkansas' Pine Bluff High while Wells, whose father, Vernon Sr., played in the Canadian Football League, was an all-state football player in Texas. Although Trout had the athletic tools to be a quarterback prospect, he stopped playing early in high school in New Jersey. And Mathis led his school to the Florida state championship game in football.
In an era of specialization in which many top high school athletes tend to concentrate on one sport, Cassevah said he doesn't know how the Angels wound up so many two-sport standouts.
“I have no idea," he said. "I think everybody here was the best player on their high school team, no matter what it was. The guy with the best arm out there, I guess that’s the best athlete."
That's how hard-throwing reliever Jordan Walden wound up throwing passes in Texas, although he stopped in the eighth grade.
"I had the best arm," he said.
Then again, maybe football acumen is something the organization looks for since General Manager Tony Reagins didn't play baseball at Indio High -- but he was a standout tailback good enough to be recruited by Oregon State.
-- Kevin Baxter in Mesa, Ariz.
Photo: Bobby Cassevah. Credit: Charlie Riedel / Associated Press