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McArthur finds his way to Fullerton

Mustangs star signs with Division I powerhouse

Circuitous routes can get you there just the same.

Take Evan McArthur.

On his way back to Medford following his standout freshman year at Eastern Arizona Junior College in Thatcher, Ariz., McArthur dropped in on a few of California's NCAA Division I baseball programs to market himself.

Among the 2002 North Medford High graduate's stops in mid-May was Cal State Fullerton near Los Angeles.

— That's the program McArthur has long idolized, from his days as a Titans bat boy while growing up in Southern California through his all-state prep career in the Rogue Valley.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound shortstop/pitcher had attempted to entice Fullerton before but to no avail.

They pretty much just kinda slammed the door in my face, McArthur says of previous contact with the Titans. They told me, 'We just don't recruit out of state.'

They do now.

Impressed by a league-best .407 average in the wood-bat Arizona Community College Athletic Conference and his selection as Eastern Arizona's athlete of the year, Fullerton followed up on McArthur.

Further inquiries revealed McArthur to be in the last summer of a spectacular four-year career with the Medford Mustangs that will leave him among the American Legion AAA club's all-time greats.

And so the Titans ' who have earned berths in three of the last five College World Series and went 50-16 in 2003 ' finally offered McArthur the chance to live out a dream.

He, of course, signed on to join the program of reigning Baseball America coach of the year George Horton, who will be in his eighth season as head coach in 2004.

I think they realized it wasn't just a high school guy hoping for a shot, says McArthur, who had also elicited some interest from the University of Arizona, San Diego State and Long Beach State. They noticed what I did at Eastern Arizona.

His Mustang feats couldn't have hurt any either.

With Area 4 winner Medford (47-7) set to begin defense of last summer's state and regional championships when the state playoffs begin Thursday, McArthur is hitting .500 to accompany 10 home runs, 30 doubles, six triples, 86 RBIs and 77 runs this year.

The double and RBI marks both tie Mustang records for best single-season totals, and 46 of his 105 knocks ' he's the second-ever Medford player to record back-to-back 100-hit summers ' are for extra bases. His slugging percentage is .843.

For his career, McArthur tops the Mustangs, champions of Oregon nine times, in all-time hits (314), RBIs (216), runs (218) and doubles (83). As his fourth year with the club winds down, McArthur's career batting average is .409.

Pitching was a key element of McArthur's prep exploits, which included first-team all-state and Southern Oregon Conference MVP honors his senior year.

The right-hander, however, has suffered from a recurring shoulder injury and hasn't pitched this summer.

He's determined to get on the mound again soon, but Fullerton is considering him strictly as an infielder ' for now, at least.

A slick fielder who possesses great range and a quick release, McArthur also ranks among the finest shortstops in Mustangs history.

He believes he'll get a shot at filling that role with the Titans next year.

I know that their shortstop position is probably open for somebody, McArthur says.

The player who predominantly manned that role last year is one of McArthur's best friends, Justin Turner, also a second baseman.

The sophomore-to-be was McArthur's co-worker as Titan bat boys in 1995.

And Turner's father is buddies with Fullerton assistant Rick Vanderhook, whom McArthur has known for years.

But after lunching with Vanderhook and handing him his JC stats in the May visit, McArthur's recruiting was handled by assistant Dave Serrano, to keep the process from getting too personal.

Nonetheless, it all worked out for McArthur in the long run.

I know (getting a scholarship from a Division I program) is a lot more difficult around this area, says McArthur, who moved to the Rogue Valley from Lakewood, Calif., prior to his freshman year of high school. And I don't know if I did enough out of high school to earn a D-I shot.

I went to Eastern, and that served a purpose. ... My next job is to get a starting spot (at Fullerton).

No matter how arduous the road, McArthur will probably get there.

Reach reporter Tim Pyle at 776-4483 or e-mail