With visions of big leagues

June 21, 1992|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

Milwaukee Brewers scout Ron Rizzi pulled no punches with the 63 big-league dreamers sitting in front of him.

"One of 10,000 kids gets a chance to play pro ball, and only about 10 percent of them get to the big leagues. I don't say that to discourage you. I just want to tell you how it really is."

But that didn't drive a soul from Rizzi's Wednesday afternoon tryout camp.

These high school and college players have dreamed of playing major-league baseball since they were old enough to pitch and catch.

4 They know it's a long shot, but they'll take it.

"Somebody has to be that 10 percent," said Jay Witasick, a C. Milton Wright graduate now pitching for the University of Maryland at Baltimore County.

"Nobody's yet told me I'm not the 10 percent, so I'll give it a shot."

For four hours, Rizzi watched Witasick and the others run through drill after drill on the Essex Community College diamond.

They came to be seen -- not just by Rizzi, but by a handful of college coaches.

"You just got to get your name out," said Ken Batten, another C. Milton Wright graduate. "You've got to get out there and be recognized. That's the only way you've got a chance to go to college or to get to the pros."

Players like Witasick and Batten, who played for Essex Community College's national championship team this spring, will probably end up signing contracts in the next few years.

Witasick already has been drafted once.

After his freshman season at Brevard Junior College in Melbourne, Fla., the right-handed pitcher was taken by the Houston Astros, but he did not sign.

Now, because of a major-league rule that forbids singing four-year college players until after their junior years, he cannot be signed until next summer.

That doesn't bother Witasick.

"After being drafted once, you know that you're being at least looked at. You must have some tools they feel you can use at the professional level," said Witasick, whose fastball is clocked at 85-86 miles an hour.

If a good offer comes along next spring, Witasick says he would leave school.

Mark Fox, a sophomore teammate of Witasick, says he would do the same thing in 1993.

"If I ever get to the point where I got drafted before I was to graduate, I would go," said Fox, who came to camp with his brothers, Jeffrey and Jason, juniors at Havre de Grace High.

"Going to the big leagues -- that's a chance that doesn't come around too often.

TH "When an opportunity arises, I think you gotta take it. College will

always be around for you."

Rizzi tells the players that 95 percent of them will "top out, in terms of baseball, in college."

He also tells them that using their baseball skills to help pay for a good education is an accomplishment in itself.

Eric Santana understands what Rizzi means.

The Edgewood graduate just finished his freshman season as a starter at Georgetown, where he is majoring in business management. Santana says he comes to Rizzi's camp to learn and to have a good time.

"I just love to play. From now till the end of college, I'll just work as hard as possible. If it happens, that'll be great, but if not, I got a Georgetown education out of it."

Major-league guidelines also forbid signing players who haven't graduated from high school.

But that doesn't keep the youngsters away.

"I'd like to play in college and get a little help education-wise," said Seth Rigler, a first baseman who will be a senior at John Carroll this fall.

"I'd love to play pro ball, but I don't know how realistic that is. Everybody out here thinks they have a chance or they wouldn't be out here in the first place."

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