No Doubt About

SIDELINES

July 19, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

Imagine being a typical boy of summer and dreaming one day that you would pitch in the major leagues, but before you get a chance to do that, you have a date in Cooperstown.

That's what has come the way of Gambrills resident and former Arundel High star Denny Neagle.

For those who know anything about the great game of baseball, Cooperstown, N.Y. is home of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Sunday is the annual Hall of Fame Induction Day in Cooperstown, and Neagle is going to be part of the festivities, despite still toiling in the bushes for the Minnesota Twins.

He's not in the big leagues yet, and certainly not ready for a bronze bust, but he's getting closer and closer.

Neagle will pitch for the Minnesota Twins on Monday against the National League's San Francisco Giants in the traditional Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown.

It's all part of a gala Hall of Fame weekend highlighted by the induction of pitchers Fergie Jenkins and Gaylord "The Greaser" Perry and hit man Rod Carew.

While Jenkins, Perry and Carew are symbols of the past, Neagle is a symbol of thefuture.

"Usually, the big-league teams that play in this game bring up a minor leaguer to pitch the Hall of Fame exhibition," said the6-foot-4, 200-pound left-hander, who is 31-9 in less than three years in the bushes with the Twins.

"It's kind of exciting and surprising that they called me up to pitch this game. I'm not in the big leagues yet, but yet I am."

Really, the personable southpaw is going to be in the big show this weekend, if not officially, after impressing the Minnesota brass in the recent Triple A Alliance All-Star Game in Louisville, Ky. Neagle worked three strong innings against the best National League prospects in the country, giving up only one run, four hits, no walks and striking out three.

The Twins' talent scouts obviously liked what they saw of the kid in the Triple A showcase.

Neagle was our 1986 Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year before going on to star at the University of Minnesota for three years.

His rise in the minor league chain of the Twins has been spectacular. Last year, he was the only pitcher in the minors to win 20 games,accomplishing the feat with combined efforts at the Single-A and Double-A levels.

Off to an 8-3 start with the Portland Beavers of theTriple-A Pacific Coast League, Neagle was under consideration to be called up to the parent club a couple of weeks ago when ace Scott Erickson was placed on the disabled list.

Neagle will spend this weekend with the big club in Boston at Fenway Park before taking the hillMonday in Cooperstown against the likes of Will "The Thrill" Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Matt Williams and the rest of the Giants.

It's kind of neat that the Twins are giving Neagle a taste of life in the bigshow in their weekend stop in Boston, then running him out there Monday.

As we told you last week, this kid is going to be challengingthe big hitters in the game before this summer is over, and if he throws well Monday in the Hall of Fame game, he might get his chance sooner than he thinks.

There is no question that Monday's game is Neagle's biggest opportunity since he signed a lucrative contract with the Twins following his junior year at Minnesota in 1989.

In addition to Neagle's being a major part of this weekend's prestigious Hallof Fame festivities, Old Mill grad Mark Foster also will have his moment in the sun.

Foster, who led the Mayo American Legion Post No.289 to the national championship last summer with a gaudy 17-0 record, will be honored for being named Legion Player of the Year.

Major League Baseball annually honors the legion's top player at the Hallof Fame ceremony, and Foster will take part in all of the Hall festivities reserved for those to be enshrined in the hallowed halls.

What is it going to say for Anne Arundel County baseball Monday when Hall of Fame officials formally introduce Foster -- the Old Mill grad now at the University of Richmond -- before the Twins-Giants exhibition, then Neagle takes the mound against San Francisco?

It says that our kids, despite the odds, can be as good as there is in the United States.

Our kids don't have the luxury of a climate that permitsthem to play year-round, nor in a lot of cases, the facilities to dowhat the kids in Florida, Texas and California do. But some of them,such as Neagle and Foster, work a little harder and are willing to pay the price.

They know how sacrifice can pay off. Neagle traveledall the way to Patterson Park in East Baltimore to play 16-and-underbaseball for legendary coach Sheriff Fowble, then all over the statewith Walter Youse's 20-and-under Johnny's team before turning pro.

It meant playing everyday while your friends were having fun in Ocean City, and that's exactly the sacrifice Foster made.

A couple ofyears ago, Foster made the commitment to play for Bernie Walter's Mayo Post team and led it to a 71-7 record last year.

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