I got to talking last week with Baltimore Orioles scouting supervisor Jim Gilbert and other scouts, coaches and players about the things a young baseball player needs to do to get seen by pro and college scouts.
In discussing the 12th annual Anne Arundel County Sun-Oriolelanders baseball game and some of the top players in it, we got into a conversation about exposure.
Over the years, nearly 85 players who have played in the Oriolelanders game have been drafted or signed by a big-league team, but playing in that showcase is not the lone reason many of those guys got the chance. There is much more. The game has become a steppingstone after the player has done all the homework.
Yes, such games provide tremendous exposure, but it's what happens in a young guy's baseball life leading up to such games that gets him the chance at professionalbaseball or a college scholarship.
So, you ask, what does it take?
The bottom line is that a young player has to make the commitment to baseball, which means sacrifice and hard work. While your friends are having fun at the ocean or at a party, you pay the price by being out on the baseball field, taking batting and infield practice andgetting ready for a game.
It all comes down to how badly you really want to do it.
The idea is to become what the pro scouts call "a prospect," or what the Orioles define as "a likely candidate to become a professional baseball player at some time in the future."
That could mean upon graduation from high school, during or after college, or after high school while playing on an amateur team and being afree agent.
"I think a lot of kids don't realize what it takes toget seen as a pro or college prospect," said Arundel High assistant baseball coach Tut O'Hara.
O'Hara, who also coaches the Mayo Legion Post No. 226 team and its 16-and-under juniors, said young players have to work at being seen as much as possible by those who make the big decisions.
Basically, that means going to all the tryout campsin your area.
Scouts are in a fraternity of sorts and constantly compare notes, because it's next to impossible to hide someone. If you become a prospect, usually several clubs have labeled you as one.
Of course, once in a while a team will do what it can to keep otherclubs from seeing too much of someone it is very interested in drafting or signing. An ex-Oriole and Detroit Tiger, Larry Sheets, who is from Staunton, Va., was one of such secret.
In 1978, I coached a 20-and-under team called Mike's Auto Mart with Gilbert, and we had Sheets along with a host of others who would later sign. One Sunday we played at Towson State University against A & S Contractors, and Sheets doubled his first time up. It was a shot, and later he got up againwith the bases loaded.
Then Orioles' scouting director Tom Giordano, who is with the Cleveland Indians these days, --ed over behind mewhere I was coaching third base and told me to get Sheets out of thegame. I, of course, wanted Sheets to hit with the bases loaded, but because the team was assembled by Oriole scouts and co-sponsored by the club, I followed orders.
Giordano wanted Sheets out because a group of scouts from several other clubs was coming over the hill to see him. But the Orioles had made up their minds to draft and sign Sheets.
The late Dick Bowie, the man Gilbert succeeded as supervisor,had seen Sheets in a summer tryout camp and liked him. Coming from such a small town, Sheets had not been seen that much by the scouts, and the Orioles wanted to keep it that way. The Orioles had two picks on the second round in June 1978 and took Sheets and Cal Ripken Jr.
"We have found a lot of good kids at our tryout camps over the years," said Gilbert, who learned the tryout camp procedure from Bowie.
"We are always looking for the younger kids at those camps, kids wecan follow through high school to see how they progress. A lot of players have been drafted because they came to tryout camps on a regular basis, and, of course, did the other things it takes."
It takes sacrifice and maybe giving up that summer fling in Ocean City. A player has to set goals and go after them.
"Going to tryout camps means getting out of bed on a summer morning for a 9 a.m. workout, and ifa kid hasn't been used to doing that, it becomes all the more difficult," said Arundel High head coach and Orioles' associate scout Bernie Walter.
"Kids get to high school and their senior year decide togo to a camp when maybe they should have been there in their underclass years."
Playing on a summer team that plays a lot of baseball and travels to regional and national tournaments is a necessity. A lot of the hard-working associate and part-time scouts beat the bushes in the summertime and follow the better teams around. If they see a really good kid from out of town in their area, they usually get in touch with the guy who covers that athlete's area.