Pitman sophomore enjoys being behind the plate

At just 15 years old and standing 5 feet, 9 inches, there's a catcher out there who conducts a game with such style that you could call his mitt his baton.

As a varsity-lettered sophomore and his team's rookie of the year, Steven Kha recorded a fielding average of .962 and a batting average of .344 at Pitman High School in Turlock.

Kha also has played on the Eastlake Titans travel team and takes lessons from private coaches Danny Ayala and Jack Jones. He recently was accepted to play on the Nor Cal 16-and-under team based in the Bay Area.

"Steven's a great kid and great player," says Pitman Coach Mick Tate. "You can see he loves the game and that he has passion for it."

Kha's swift and precise footwork behind the plate mimics the composure of Oakland's Kurt Suzuki. If a wild pitch or passed ball occurs, Kha springs to his feet, pursuing the ball to stop any base runner from advancing.

"In the beginning, I was asked to play the position in order to help my team, and from there, I have fallen in love with it," Kha said. "Not only am I involved in every pitch of the game, I enjoy the many responsibilities."

One of those jobs is keeping pitchers performing at their best. If the pitcher runs into trouble, "I tell him to focus, settle down and concentrate. Once in a while, I'll tell him a joke to have him relax and chuckle.

"My biggest contribution to the team this year, I think, would have to be my positive attitude and love toward the game," Kha said. "But of course, throwing guys out and my bat helps the team, too."

When Pitman played cross-town rival Turlock High on April 29, it was another opportunity for Kha to showcase his arm. He threw out two runners trying to steal. Pitman won the game 4-3.

"To keep a cool head, I focus that I have a job to do, and showing emotion can give the other team satisfaction and advantage," Kha said. "I try to focus on the game, my job, and what I want to achieve only."

As good as he is on the ball field, Kha is also a strong performer in school. He carries a 4.2 grade-point average with a schedule stocked with advanced placement classes. He participates in the Asian Club and is vice president of the student body and the Key Club.

Stephanie Rodin is a junior at Pitman High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom program.