Tuesday, August 23, 2005 | The Fullerton Flyers decided to let sleeping dogs lie in the week’s opener, letting the Surf Dawgs sleepwalk through a 5-0 shutout loss. Flyers pitcher Paul Abbot went eight innings with six hits, but the Dawgs weren’t done with Abbot yet. The following day the Dawgs lost their first player of the season to a major league affiliated team – pitcher Adam Johnson, who was picked up by the Oakland Athletics to play for the team’s triple A club in Sacramento. Johnson’s departure, which came just two weeks before the playoffs, was bittersweet for pitching coach Larry Owens. “That’s the purpose of this league,” said Owens. “That’s why we’re here, to hopefully develop guys and give them a chance to go off and play for an affiliated team.”

Johnson was the scheduled pitcher for the second game of the Fullerton series; Donovan Graves’ start was bumped up a day. Graves delivered six innings with nine hits and four runs. The Dawgs won the game 12-6 thanks to home runs by catcher Cody Clark and center fielder Rickey Henderson. After the game, the Dawgs found out that a trade between them and the Flyers would send pitcher Paul Abbot, author of the previous night’s shutout, to the Dawgs pitching rotation. Fullerton would close out the series with a 7-2 win over the Surf Dawgs.

The Dawgs returned home for the final series of the season with the Japan Samurai Bears. The team needed to come back from a two-run deficit to win. Home runs by Matt Wheatland and Tony Garcia, along with a five-run fifth inning, helped the team to an 8-3 win. The Dawgs had to come back again to win the following night 11-4 thanks to three errors by the Bears and a four-run eighth inning.

It took 10 innings for the Dawgs to beat the Bears the following game, surviving 15 strike-outs by Bears pitcher Hideki Nagasaka. Pitcher Paul Abbot would make his Surf Dawgs debut in the Sunday afternoon series finale. Abbot pitched five innings, giving up one run, three hits and seven strikeouts, but a four-run eighth inning brought a 6-5 win to the Bears.

As the Dawgs play their final home stand (Aug. 22-24 against the Arizona Division leading Mesa Miners) and begin to look forward to the postseason playoffs, second baseman Adam Mandel takes stock of his rookie season. “It’s been fun. I’ve had a great time doing it,” said Mandel. “It’s not much different from my college experience. The competition is a lot better, a lot better pitching.”

Currently batting .321 with 24 RBIs, Mandel had played for Denison University and enjoyed the camaraderie of his college team. The individuality of the professional leagues was something that Mandel did not look forward to. “This team is like my college team in a way because we get along really great, so that’s been nice,” said Mandel. “I don’t like the whole idea of everyone being out for themselves, that’s what we’re all doing here, but it’s fun when you have a team that gets along well and has a good time together.”

Mandel’s season has been a challenge as he’s changed from the outfield to second base. “Now that I’m playing second base I think it’s brought me a chance to maybe go on to the next level.” said Mandel. “As a center fielder I don’t hit with much power. The fact that they took a chance on me to play second has opened new opportunities for me.”

He feels he is able to maintain his easygoing attitude because of his off-season career as a retail real estate agent in Columbus, Ohio. “There’s not too much pressure on me if this is as far as I go,” said Mandel. “If I go on, great. It’s not like this is my living, this is not all I’m depending on. I come to the field and I just love coming everyday. I think it relaxes me knowing that there’s not a lot of pressure on me. I still want to perform well, don’t get me wrong, but you play better when there is not pressure on you.”

The Surf Dawgs play their last home series of the season against the Mesa Miners through Wednesday before hitting the road for a weekend series against the Surprise Scorpions. To listen to the games and for ticket information, 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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