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Ceres High graduate succeeds after demotion
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When Caleb Maher was demoted in June, his family and girlfriend provided encouragement.

"It was hard but having great support from back home helped out a lot," said Maher, a 2002 Ceres High graduate, who's been playing professional baseball in the Anaheim Angels' farm system for the past three years.

Maher, 21, finished the 2004 season with the Provo Angels, a rookie-level affiliate in Orem, Utah.

Maher and his teammates swept the defending champion Billings Mustangs, two games to none, and won the Pioneer League Championship Series on Sept. 13. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder collected three RBIs in four games.

"We won our division and then we played two, three-game series' and won them both," Maher said. "We won it all. It was awesome."

Maher enjoyed the experience.

The journey was mentally and physically exhausting.

"It's totally different when you get to the playoffs," Maher said. "The pitchers are much more conservative. They don't give you good pitches to hit. It's so intense."

The team won a trophy and each player will receive a championship ring, valued at more than $3,000.

Maher opened the 2004 season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, a Low-A affiliate in the Midwest League in Iowa.

His troubles began after missing two-and-a-half weeks with a finger injury, sustained while trying to break up a double play. Maher slid into second base and the shortstop stepped on his ring finger on his left hand.

Maher was reassigned to Provo after batting .201 and striking out 45 times in 38 games.

"I just really couldn't get back in the groove and that's when they told me I would be going down," Maher said. "That was the first time in my baseball career that has happened. It was tough."

Maher played in 50 games, mostly at designated hitter, with Provo. He batted .316 with six homers, one triple, 12 doubles, 36 runs and 36 RBIs. He had a .497 slugging percentage.

"I didn't want to go down but it helped me out in the long run," Maher said. "I got my confidence back up to where it should be and where it needed to be."

Maher's most prolific performance came against Ogden on July 7. He belted a pair of three-run homers in leading Provo to a 15-3 victory over the Raptors.

Maher is spending the offseason in Ceres.

He enrolled at Humphreys College, which is located on Sisk Road in Modesto, last month. He signed up for two science courses and one business course.

"I love learning," said Maher, who attends class on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays.

Maher also loves teaching.

He's offering hitting lessons at Rainbow Fields.

"If anyone has a question to ask about hitting I can answer it," he said.

In March, Maher will fly to Mesa, Ariz., to participate in Spring Training. He'll be assigned to a team after three weeks of practicing and competing.

"I'll probably start at Cedar Rapids next year," he said.

Maher spent the entire 2003 season with Cedar Rapids, where he hit .233 with seven homers, three triples, 13 doubles, 36 runs and 46 RBIs in 92 games.

In 48 games with Rookie-A Mesa in 2002, Maher hit .299 with two homers, 11 doubles, two triples, 22 runs and 31 RBIs. He got promoted to High-A Rancho Cucamonga at the end of the year, and played in front of his family and friends at John Thurman Field in Modesto. In three games against the Athletics, Maher hit .444 (4-for-9) with a double.

Maher was selected by Anaheim in the ninth round of the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft.

He batted .528, hit seven homers and drove in 27 runs en route to earning first-team, all-state honors, winning the Central California Conference Most Valuable Player award and leading the Ceres High baseball team into the playoffs during his senior year. The Bulldogs hadn't made an appearance in the postseason in 10 years. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier