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CHS grad Maher chasing a dream
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Caleb Maher returned from a brief stint on the disabled list on June 21. The Ceres High grad suffered a mild concussion after getting struck in the head by a fastball against Chico on June 17.

"Something like that shakes a player up," said Mesa Miners manager Les Lancaster. "He stepped right in and picked up where he left off."

Maher, 22, is one of the top players in the Golden Baseball Independent League. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound outfielder and first baseman bats cleanup. As of Monday, Maher had a .296 batting average with eight homers, 30 runs and 40 RBI for the Miners, who have a one-game lead over the Yuma Scorpions in the league standings (32-24).

"He's definitely been one of our most productive guys," Lancaster said. "He's been in the top 10 in hitting, homers and RBIs all year long. A lot of teams don't like to pitch to him unless they have too."

"I started off really hot," said Maher, who's played in 50 games. "I was hitting the ball hard every time. The last couple of weeks, I've died down a little bit."

Maher earned Player of the Week honors on June 8. He hit .429 (15-for-35) with 12 RBI during the first week of the season.

On July 15, Maher was named a starter on the Arizona Division All-Star team. Approximately 24 players were recognized.

"I just found out a couple days ago," he said.

Maher has developed into a leader despite being the youngest player on the team.

"The maturity he has on the baseball field is outstanding," Lancaster said. "He also gets along well with his teammates and the fans like him."

Maher signed with the Miners in May. He made the 24-man roster. More than 100 players tried out at HoHoKam Park in Arizona.

Maher spent the past three seasons in the Anaheim Angels minor-league farm system. He got cut during Spring Training.

"I got released five days before we broke camp," Maher said. "I still wanted to play. My agent hooked me up with a tryout in Mesa. I was there for an hour and got signed that day."

"I liked what I saw, his size and power," Lancaster said. "Being able to have a player that can play two positions is a plus."

The Golden Baseball League season started in May and concludes with the playoffs in September. The Miners play a 90-game schedule.

"The whole goal is to get with an (affiliated) organization," Maher said. "I'm going to keep on pushing."

Several teams have expressed interest in Maher. Lancaster wouldn't say which ones.

"I feel very strongly someone will give him another chance," Lancaster said. "He's cutting down his strikeouts and going to the opposite field. It's just a matter of getting him with the right organization.

"I'm surprised that he's still here right now. It's a blessing for us. But my job is to get him to an affiliated team so he can work his way up."

Maher was selected by Anaheim in the ninth round of the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft. He has spent time with teams in Arizona, California, Iowa and Utah.

Maher opened the 2004 season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, a Low-A affiliate in the Midwest League, in Iowa. He was reassigned to Provo, a Rookie-Level affiliate in Orem, Utah, after batting .201 and striking out 45 times in 38 games.

Maher played in 50 games, mostly at designated hitter, with Provo, which won the Pioneer League Championship Series. He batted .316 with six homers, one triple, 12 doubles, 36 runs and 36 RBIs during the regular season.

Maher suited up for Cedar Rapids in 2003. In 92 games, he had a .233 batting average with seven homers, three triples, 13 doubles, 36 runs and 46 RBI.

In 48 games with Mesa, a Rookie-A affiliate in Arizona, in 2002, Maher hit .299 with two homers, 11 doubles, two triples, 22 runs and 31 RBI.

At the end of the year, he got promoted to High-A Rancho Cucamonga in the California League. Maher collected a double and three singles in front of his family and friends at John Thurman Field in Modesto.

"I don't regret nothing," Maher said. "I'm glad I signed out of high school. I learned so much about baseball and life. It's been a great experience."

Maher wants to marry his high-school sweetheart and start a family in the future. He hasn't set any long-term career goals.

"I just really haven't thought that far ahead," he said. "I have always had baseball on my mind."

Maher is chasing a dream.

"I want to play until I reach my goal of getting in the big leagues," he said. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff reporter of the Ceres (Calif.) Courier