M. Terry / SFVS

Heads of the Class — Seniors (l-r) Tommy Palomera, Brandon Bohning and Joshua Medina are part of the veteran core that has Chatsworth ranked No.1 among City baseball teams.

To outsiders, Chatsworth baseball coach Tom Meusborn can appear to be more tightly wound than a 19th Century corset, someone who must micromanage every movement his players make.

That’s not fair. Meusborn is not some humorless, unfeeling android. He’s an excellent conversationalist, and has widespread interests. But he knows what works for the Chatsworth baseball program, and is a stickler for detail. 

“What we always are looking for is consistency,” Meusborn said. “Offense comes and goes, but if you pitch and defend you have a good chance to win. We also strive to stay in the moment, and not get ahead of ourselves.

“Your goal as a coach is for your players to keep getting better. The game itself has changed a little, with the training and diet, and out of season programs. Players are constantly looking for ways to improve. So you stay within your framework, in what you believe, and what you can do to get them better —not just something you do one year and let it go the next, and be all over the place.”

That approach has gotten Chatsworth to 16 City Section finals in Meusborn’s 26 years here as head coach. The Chancellors have won eight of their nine City titles under his guidance. The other title, in 1983, was before Meusborn’s time.

It appears Chatsworth has another, excellent chance to add to its total. The 2017 team began the week with a 23-5 overall record. The Chancellors are ranked 16th in the state and 65th nationally, according to maxpreps.com, were undefeated in league (8-0) and clinched the West Valley title with two games remaining this week against Birmingham. They will undoubtedly be the top seed of the City Division I bracket when the playoff pairings are announced Monday, May 8.

It’s the kind of team most coaches crave: a veteran starting lineup of seven seniors and two juniors, a lineup with both power and speed. And its core group of players are driven in their pursuit of another championship banner to put on the outfield wall.

“It’s a pressure we like to live up to,” said Joshua Medina, 18, a senior pitcher and outfielder who’s batting .420 with a team-high 32 RBIs. “We want to uphold the tradition at Chatsworth. Once you’re here as a freshman it’s hammered into you; you slowly [grow] into the role of wanting to be the best in the country.”

Shortstop Brandon Bohning, who’s been in the program all four years here, used himself as an example of how players are molded into all things Chatsworth.

“The biggest thing I learned was going hard every day in practice, because it does carry over into the game,” said Bohning, 18, hitting .313 with four homers and 23 RBIs. “My freshman year I kinda dogged it, went through the motions because I really didn’t know what to do. But the older guys showed me that working hard does pay off.”

Leading pitcher Tommy Palomera, 18, adds that this collection of Chancellors is unusually close because many have grown up playing together on area Little League and travel teams. “Most of us played for Valley Sports Academy, which is run out of Chatsworth. We’ve all been playing [together] for quite a while,” he said.

The familiarity gives Chatsworth a comfort level and belief that no game is beyond the Chancellor’s grasp if they play as a team.

“We try not to play to the scoreboard,” said Palomera, with a 5-3 record and 1.85 ERA on the mound while also batting .407 with four homers and 25 RBIs. “We play every pitch. We go out and play hard no matter what the score is.”

The Chancellors don’t have to tell you they’re good — it’s obvious when you watch them play. They want to be remembered as champions. The last City title won here was in 2009. And Chatsworth has had some agonizing close calls since then, none more than the 2-1 loss to league rival El Camino Real in the final last year at Dodger Stadium.

“I think the fact that it was El Co hit us a little more,” Bohning said. “But [losing] is still a terrible feeling in general. It’s given us a chip on our shoulder this year. I think we have some fire in us.”

Adds Medina, “It was a great experience; I learned a lot. I just want to get back there and win it. That’s the one goal in my mind, all through fall and summer. It’s all I’ve been thinking about; getting back there and winning it.”

For those expecting Meusborn to be totally consumed about winning a title with this group, take a breath.

He knows he has a terrific group of players, and wants them to win a title. But there are so many variables in baseball; you can have the best team and not be guaranteed the championship. 

He’s been there.

“Obviously you want to win and it does bother you when you don’t, sure,” Meusborn said. “But I’ve been fortunate to get there 16 times. It’s a blessing to get the opportunity to go and compete. It’s not that easy. Did we give our best effort? That’s all you can ask. And did we teach them more than baseball? That is what we’re after. You can’t always control the outcome of games. Of course if I was 0-16, I might feel different.

“[The players] understand what it takes to compete and are willing to make this effort. They play hard every game and give themselves a chance. That is all you can ask.”