Wednesday, July 20, 2005 | The Surf Dawgs had a week at home to cool down after their desert road trip. Although the team enjoyed the moderate temperatures at the beach, they didn’t cool down on the baseball diamond.

The Fullerton Flyers came in for a three-game series, kicking off the second half of the season. The Flyers won the opener 5-4, and the Dawgs quickly recovered the following night with a 4-3 win behind RBIs from Adam Mandel, Nick Guerra and Seth Pietsch. Closer John Boker picked up his 10th save to lead the Golden Baseball League.

The series finale would feature back-to-back home runs from Matt Wheatland and Tony Garcia and a solid 6 1/3 innings’ outing from Jeff Blitstein, whose 10 strikeouts helped the Dawgs to a 5-2 win.

“I’m impressed with the players,” said manager Terry Kennedy. “They have shown me a level of consistency that I really didn’t expect. The pitching staff has been really good and that’s why we’re in first place. That’s all a manager asks, is to know that he’s getting the same thing every night and that’s what I’m getting. I can only rely on the players and plug in the bench and they always do a good job.”

The Surprise Fightin’ Falcons would come to Tony Gwynn Stadium for a weekend series hoping to reverse the lopsided series from the previous week. The Falcons opened with a strong 7-1 win behind a six-run fourth inning. The Dawgs rebounded with two wins (10-4 in the second game and 9-1 in the third) behind heavy hitting from Pietsch, Guerra and Damon Doskocil.

“We felt as long as we play our game that we have a chance against anybody,” said catcher Cody Clark. “We knew going into the season (the other teams) would be really good but if we played our game we had a good shot against anyone.”

The team ended the first week of the second half with a 35-16 record, the best of the GBL. As strong as the team has played, they were still feeling the effects of the Arizona road trip the week before. Clark, the team’s catcher, was especially worn out by the Arizona heat, losing 10 pounds thanks to the heat and weight of his equipment. “We didn’t have any locker rooms, so there was no place to escape the heat except stay at our rooms,” said Clark. “It just hit you like a punch on the face when you walked out of the room.”

The Dawgs had to limit their pre-game workouts in Arizona to compensate for the heat. The team usually works out between an hour and a half to two hours before a game, hitting in the cages, taking live pitches and working on infield drills. But, in the heat the team limited itself to a 10-minute warm up with a quick run through in the batting cages.

“When the sun goes down it’s bearable,” said Kennedy. “The problem is you can’t get any work done because it’s the highest heat of the day.”

Even with the exceptional shape he is in, Rickey Henderson felt the effects of the heat. There was one Dawg who enjoyed the heat, pitcher Donavan Graves, who had a perfect game against the Fightin’ Falcons going into the sixth inning, “I don’t mind the heat because it keeps you loose,” said Graves. “To me it’s just better baseball weather. I would rather pitch in the heat than the cold.”

The season’s midpoint has also brought renewed interest in Henderson’s story of playing in the GBL to get back into major league baseball. “Nightline” recently ran a story on him, and CNN sent a crew out to film a story. Henderson has led the league in on base percentage and walks, as well as providing base running that has been key in several of the team’s wins.

With several players from other GBL teams getting signed, it would be understandable for Henderson to question his decision to play in the league. “Going out there and assuming that someone is going to give you something, then you’re going to mess yourself up. You’ve got to make yourself feel proud. I don’t care if I win or what, I had a great time,” said Henderson.

The Surf Dawgs are on the road in Chico, Long Beach and Yuma. To listen to the games and get ticket information for the upcoming series against Japan and Long Beach, visit http://sandiegosurfdawgs.com or call (619) 282-4487.

Tami Rapozo, is a San Diego native who has written for several local publications. In 2001, she wrote Keepers of the Faith, a book on the San Diego Padres and their booster club, the Madres.

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