300 vie for brief glance from scouts at Marlins tryout Packed event a 'nightmare' for many disappointed locals

July 19, 1992|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

His first throw from behind home plate bounced in the dirt before reaching the guy covering second base. His next three tosses, including one that skipped into center field, took the same unwanted dive.

After four attempts, former Northeast catcher Rick Stang had completed another portion of his tryout with the expansion Florida Marlins baseball team Friday afternoon at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans.

Moving behind a row of players nervously awaiting their turn to impress the scouts, the 21-year-old Stang shook his head from side to side and said, "Oh, to be young again."

"Twenty-one doesn't sound very old," he said, "but it sure feels it."

Stang, who played at Anne Arundel Community College for two years before transferring to Bluefield State College in West Virginia, was among nearly 300 athletes hoping to get noticed by Marlins area supervisor Ty Brown and his assistants at the camp.

The inflated turnout, coupled with the fact that everyone had to be off the field by 1:30 p.m., had Brown scrambling to reschedule another tryout. He succeeded in reserving more time at Joe Cannon Stadium on Tuesday morning, when he'll invite back "about half of them, probably fewer." He has another session slated for 10 a.m. tomorrow at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va.

"This is a logistical nightmare," Brown said. "I never imagined we'd have this many guys."

Stang doesn't figure to be one of the players returning to Harmans for another look next week.

"I came out just hoping to do all right and maybe they'd get interested in me a little bit and come down and watch me play or something. It's really an outside chance," he said.

Before moving behind the plate shortly before noon, nearly two hours after everyone had initially taken the field, Stang's only activity was running the 60-yard -- and finding a comfortable place to sit.

"Two things that are going to get me sent home real quick," he said, laughing.

The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder wouldn't reveal his speed in the -- -- the equivalent of going from home to second without the turn -- though a nearby player said, "It's pretty bad, Stang, when they time you by the sun."

"Not many catchers are fast," said Stang, who attended an Atlanta Braves tryout camp last Saturday at Dundalk Community College that drew around 40 people.

"Personally, I think [speed] is over-rated. I've worked on it. I've run before games and stuff, but I've gained weight. I'd like to lose about 15 pounds to make me a little quicker, but I really don't think it's going to make that much difference. I'll have to do my talking with my bat."

Not on this day. Hitting drills were scrapped due to time constraints, much to the chagrin of the many athletes who didn't want their fate determined solely by a stopwatch.

"I don't think you get a fair look at all," said Chris Thomas, 18, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound first baseman from Southern. "But they've got to do what they've got to do. They don't have enough time to look at everybody."

"This is ridiculous," said Jeff Whitaker, 17, a Chesapeake graduate attending his third camp. "There are so many people here, they won't get the chance to see what everybody can do. The only people they're really here to watch are the name people. They're the ones who are really going to get the chance to be seen."

One of those "name" players was another Chesapeake graduate, Joe Andrzejewski, 21, a pitcher who has been released by the Milwaukee Brewers and Baltimore Orioles organizations.

Andrzejewski was clocked throwing between 90-93 mph at the Braves camp, and said he will move to Sarasota, Fla., this fall and "start hitting the instructional league camps."

"This is just a formality," he said of Friday's session. "I want to make sure I'm still fresh in their minds. That's the only reason I go to these tryouts. Most of the teams aren't planning to sign people out of here."

And Andrzejewski knows that getting signed, after having been released twice already, will be difficult, even for someone with his live arm.

"There's concern there," he said, "but I'm just going to see if someone is willing to take a chance on me."

Stang will play the same waiting game, but not for much longer.

"Probably this time next year will be time to hang up the cleats," he said.

"With this being a new team, everybody here looks at it like [the Marlins] need players and they figure it's their easiest chance to catch on."

Then, thinking about his own predicament, Stang said, "It's a shame there aren't a couple more teams."

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