Alberto Concepcion hit 20 home runs at El Segundo High School in 1999, including six in a row, and was considered the nation's top catching prospect. A second round draft choice, he turned down the money and accepted a scholarship to USC, where he was slated to replace All-American Eric Munson. Education is important to Concepcion, whose mother returned to school at a later age to attain her degree from USC. Had she taken just one more semester to graduate, she would have been a classmate of her son.
"She's been a big influence on me," says Alberto. "Academics is always first with us." Concepcion carries a 3.2 GPA.
Pacific-10 Conference pitching has been a challenge to Concepcion, who has struggled around the .245 mark. He has not nailed down the starting catcher's job, which is held by Beau Craig, and platoons in the outfield.
"Not playing at catcher has not affected me at the plate," he says. "I played the outfield my first three years of high school. I just need at-bats to focus on my game."
Concepcion is not the first highly rated prepster to discover the reality of Division I pitching.
"Pitchers like Justin Wayne, Jason Young, Mark Prior with us," says coach Mike Gillespie, "are Double-A level quality. Look at Troy Glaus, he hit only .265 as a freshman at UCLA. Bill Scott struggled as a freshman there, too." At SC, Bret Boone and Bret Barberie were once top high school players who needed that first year to develop, and Concepcion is well aware of this. He may be frustrated after knowing only success, but he is more concerned with helping the Trojans in post-season play.
"I knew Pac-10 pitching was at a high level," he says. "People say it's like Double-A ball, so I knew what I was getting into. Pitchers just throw harder. In high school I saw mostly 78 mile an hour fastballs, in college it's usually around 88."
Concepcion agrees with Glaus, who recently said that Friday night pitching in the conference is even better than Double-A.
"Those guys are even more pumped up on Friday nights than minor league pitchers," he says, "because they're going on six days rest, and there's such emphasis on winning the first game of a three-game series.
"I had a goal to hit over .300, and went in confident. I'm still adjusting to not playing every day, but I think I'm leaving my freshman year improved."
Concepcion faces a major test this summer, when he will play for Wareham in the Cape Cod League. Only wood bats are used on the Cape, and the 6-1, 210-pounder knows that he will be judged by his production. He has hit with wood before, practicing with them in high school and using them in Bobby Brett's American Legion Tournament in Washington. He lifts weights, but is not focused on getting much bigger; rather, he wants to maintain his current strength.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism