It is rare that Malik Dean gets a chance to watch his son play baseball for Centennial High School.
C.J. Dean, a sophomore shortstop and pitcher, understands his father's dilemma, because Malik is in his seventh season coaching the Stars' softball team.
"He makes up for it during the summer when I'm playing travel ball," C.J. Dean said. "He coached me in T-ball and coach-pitch leagues when I was young and he's always there to support me when he can be. I know we butted heads when he was coaching me because I was stubborn, but without his support and coaching, I wouldn't be making the progress in baseball that I'm making now. He really helped me in pursuit of my goal."
Dean was batting .522 with three doubles, one home run and 16 runs scored through 10 games. He had a .633 on-base percentage and struck out just once in his first 30 plate appearances.
The Stars were 6-7 overall before playing Grandview on April 23. They are 6-1 in the City League-North Division.
"I get reports on him from coach (Pat) Nance and a lot of the (baseball) parents," coach Dean said. "I get the blow-by-blow from them, but C.J. and I are on different schedules in the spring and basically we just cross paths. I try to get to some of the non-league games when we aren't playing. I like to see him compete against the Westervilles and Wattersons and see how he stacks up."
According to Nance, Dean stacks up quite well.
"He's our best player and I think he could play most positions," Nance said. "He's become an elite player and he has stepped up as a leader on the field and in the locker room. He leads us in most statistical categories and also leads us in pregame."
Dean has played center field the past two travel seasons for the Cangelosi BlackSox. The team is sponsored by Bo Jackson's Elite Sports in Hilliard.
"I grew up playing shortstop and my dad played third base in college at Ohio Dominican," Dean said. "But I had the chance to start with the BlackSox if I played outfield. In my first game playing center field, I threw out two runners and made a diving catch and now I prefer playing the outfield."
Coach Dean said his son is a late bloomer.
"I realized when C.J. played for the Ohio Elite when he was 10 and 11 that I wasn't going to be able to coach him much longer, so I had to step back some but still try to find him good coaching," he said. "But then he stopped playing travel ball (after turning 12) because he had broken his thumb and had three pins inserted.
"He's finally reaching the low- to mid-80s on his fastball and I'm hoping he'll eclipse 90 by the time he graduates. He has been a bit of a slow bloomer, but he's catching up in a hurry now."
Dean said he does have a bit of a mental hiccup when it comes to pitching.
"I don't like to start," he said. "I'd rather come on in relief. It's easier for me to do it that way. It seems if I start on the mound, I'm never warmed up physically or mentally. But if I'm in the field, running around and communicating, I'm more into the game mentally and physically when I take the mound. There's something about communicating in the field and cheering on the pitcher that keeps me focused. You don't really talk when you're on the mound."
Dean has a 3.85 GPA and is hoping his play this summer will expose him to more collegiate scouts.
Before that, he wants to help the Stars have a special season.
"We've got some talented guys like Cameron Vasquez and Evan Teeters and the top of our order hits the ball well," Dean said. "Our infield is pretty strong, too. I just think if we stay focused and get out of our own heads, we can finish strong.
"I've been trying to let my teammates know that if we communicate better and grow our bond, it'll be good for this program. We do have potential if we can stay focused."
Softball team still chasing North title
The softball team is 12-8 overall and 9-1 in the City-North and has just four games remaining in the regular season, beginning Monday, April 29, at Northland.
If the Stars beat the Vikings, Mifflin on Tuesday, April 30, and Beechcroft on Wednesday, May 1, they would likely set up a showdown with host Whetstone on May 6 with the City-North title at stake.
Whetstone, which is 9-0 in league play, beat Centennial 7-6 on April 10.
The teams have been forced to compete in a playoff game to determine the City-North representative in the City final the past two seasons after sharing the North title. The Stars won both times, only to lose the championship game to Eastmoor Academy.
"We just have to take care of our business," coach Dean said. "I'm hoping they remember how to play softball by the time they get back from spring break. They have not been a confident group all season. They really have doubted themselves and just have not played well defensively. It feels like they've plateaued. Rather than apologizing from mistakes, I want them to learn from those mistakes. They just haven't been able to translate and carry over the learning from practice to the games on a consistent basis.
"Jordan (Fischer) has been tearing the cover off the ball lately and she's got a great arm in center field. Toni (Sfikas) also is hitting well and Kassy (Stefanski) is pitching very well."
Wissman wins singles title in City tourney
Sophomore Max Wissman and senior Jack Jones had strong performances for the boys tennis team last week.
Wissman won the singles championship in the City coaches tournament that concluded April 17 at Africentric, beating Whetstone's Colin Harmon-Ulmer 6-0, 6-1 and earning first-team all-league honors.
Jones reached a singles semifinal before losing to Harmon-Ulmer 0-6, 6-4, 6-4. He was second-team all-league.
The following day, the pair helped lead the Stars to a key win over Beechcroft.
"Those two made all-City, but we were hoping Jack would make it to the final because he's a senior," coach Barbara Stevenson said. "But he was sick. The next day, we had a key match against Beechcroft and I wasn't sure Jack was even going to make it there. But he did and he helped us win 3-2. He had to go three sets when he was sick.
"We swept the singles courts and we're unbeaten in the league with the big match against Whetstone left (Monday, April 29, at Antrim Park)."
Against Beechcroft, Wissman won 6-4, 7-6 at first singles, Jones won 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 at second singles and sophomore Aiden Ly won 6-1, 6-3 at third singles.
The Stars are 3-0 in the City-North. Whetstone is 2-0 and has a makeup with Beechcroft remaining.
"Aiden was fresh because he lost in the first round (championship quarterfinal) in the City tournament and he played strong against Beechcroft and kind of cruised," Stevenson said. "Beechcroft is very good this year and it was one of those matches I won't forget soon."
Below are the coming schedules for the Centennial baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
April 25 -- At Westland
*April 29 -- At Northland. The Stars beat the Vikings 5-4 on April 3.
*April 30 -- Home vs. Mifflin. The conclusion of the teams' first game April 8 will precede the regularly scheduled game.
*May 1 -- Home vs. Beechcroft. The Stars beat the Cougars 15-2 on April 5.
*April 29 -- At Northland. The Stars beat the Vikings 7-6 on April 3.
*April 30 -- Home vs. Mifflin. The Stars beat the Punchers 14-1 on April 8.
*May 1 -- Home vs. Beechcroft. The Stars beat the Cougars 20-0 on April 5.
*April 29 -- Whetstone at Antrim Park
May 1 -- At Village Academy
TRACK & FIELD
April 29 -- Northland Relays
April 30 -- Cougar Invitational at Beechcroft