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redsmetz
06-08-2009, 07:41 AM
Tom Groeschen, the writer who has filled in for John Fay from time to time, has a good column on the MLB draft from the perspective of the players who hope to be drafted. Groeschen's a good writer for this subject since he usually covers the high school sports beat.


June 7, 2009

Tools are the Trade

By Tom Groeschen
tgroeschen@enquirer.com

The mystery men came at Luke Maile early, with their radar guns and stopwatches. Maile did what all great young baseball players do.

The Covington Catholic catcher ignored them.

That is exactly what the mystery men, those generally silent Major League Baseball scouts who stand behind backstops with speed guns and notebooks, wanted to see: production under fire.

"It's a mind-blowing experience," Maile said. "They're definitely noticeable when they're back there watching you. You can't worry about it because if you do, you probably won't be successful at the next level anyway."

Maile, the area's top-rated high school senior player, has had scouts evaluating him since his freshman year. Maile is rated the No. 289 high school senior nationally by PGcrosschecker.com, one of the top rating services.

Maile is chasing the dream of thousands of other amateur players, from Little League through college, who grow up wanting to play major-league baseball.

With this year's 50-round amateur draft beginning Tuesday, Maile will be among a handful of locals wondering if they will get a call.

Kyle Raleigh of Oak Hills, a senior pitcher rated by PGcrosschecker.com as Cincinnati's No. 4 prep senior (1,282nd overall nationally), is also among those being scouted but is more likely headed to college first. (Maile has signed with Kentucky, Raleigh with Ball State.)

"Sometimes as a pitcher, you see scouts back there and you tense up and try to throw it a little harder," Raleigh said. "At the beginning it's like, 'Whoa, they're back there.' Now it's normal to see them back there."

Still, Raleigh admits to being human. Yes, he had seen that handheld radar gun as he pitched against Colerain recently. When told it was an L.A. Dodgers scout, Raleigh perked up and asked:

"What did he say about me?"

Scout one, find another

In Maile's case, he posted big numbers throughout his career. He drove in 66 runs as a sophomore, was a MaxPreps.com All-American as a junior, holds a slew of CovCath batting records and has great arm strength behind the plate.

"You'd rather have the scouts looking at you than not," Maile said. "The only thing you can do is go out and play your game. After a while, you see so many of them at your games that you kind of get numbed by them."

The more eyes, the better chance a player has of being seen.

There are numerous stories of scouts going to games to evaluate one player, then seeing another player who catches their eye.

Chuck Laumann, Oak Hills head baseball coach, said that happened in his program to Josh Richmond. Richmond is now flourishing at the University of Louisville.

"Josh was able to sign at Louisville based on what he did once with a Reds scout in his presence," Laumann said. "You never know who's there watching."

Laumann played at Oak Hills with Bill Wegman, who went on to pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers from 1985-95.

Wegman led Oak Hills to an Ohio big-school state championship in 1980 and a runner-up finish in '81.

"We had a lot of coaches and scouts come to see Wegman, and they also saw everyone else," Laumann said. "All of us in the starting lineup wound up going to college and playing baseball."

Seen it from both sides

St. Henry coach Walt Terrell truly has seen it all. What better man to be Maile's summer-league coach than Terrell, who pitched in the majors from 1982-92 mainly with Detroit and the New York Mets?

Terrell, 51, is from Jeffersonville, Ind., and was drafted twice out of Morehead State University (15th round by the Mets in 1979, 33rd round by the Rangers in 1980).

Players can be drafted more than once; some initially defer the pro route either because they need more experience or don't get the bonus money they want.

In Terrell's case, he was willing to wait.

Terrell remembers when scouts would plug their radar guns into their cars' cigarette lighters, back when most vehicles were so equipped. Before technology advanced, some scouts would pull their vehicles as near the field as possible and plug in. Other scouts would plug their guns into portable battery packs.

"I can still see those guys sitting in their cars with the (radar) guns," Terrell said.

One such scout was Steve Hamilton, a former New York Yankees pitcher who later coached Terrell at Morehead.

"I was trying to throw 96 or 98 (mph) every pitch, but I couldn't," Terrell said. "You want to impress them. Once I figured out you can also get guys out by not throwing every pitch that hard ... I think the radar gun and the stopwatches have become too big a tool, to a degree."

The scouting clusters became old hat for Terrell, he said, because eventually every major-league team sent someone to watch him. Terrell said he was grateful to attract so much attention.

"They look for certain things, not just how you throw but your mannerisms and how you handle yourself," Terrell said. "If you're a hitter, even if you go 0-for-4 that day you can still impress them by doing other things right."

Terrell has coached Maile in summer ball with the Kentucky Colonels, a local amateur team.

"With the flood of people coming to see Luke, he has handled it tremendously," Terrell said.

Late bloomers of late

There was a time when Cincinnati was a true Mecca for high school baseball.

The 1970s and '80s were the golden age. Players such as Leon Durham (Woodward), Pat Tabler (McNicholas), Ken Griffey Jr. (Moeller) and Mark Lewis (Hamilton) all became first-round MLB draftees straight out of high school.

But the last area player to be a "pure" first-round draftee directly from high school was Adam Hyzdu (Moeller outfielder, 1990), who went 15th overall to the San Francisco Giants. Mike Bell of Moeller was a first-round supplemental pick (30th overall) by the Texas Rangers in 1993. "Ten years ago, you'd come into Cincinnati and expect to see a fair amount of guys drafted," said Dodgers scout Tom Keefe, who evaluates Cincinnati and other local regions. "Now, the development of many Cincinnati players seems to come at a later age."

Players such as Boston Red Sox star infielder Kevin Youkilis (Sycamore) and Cleveland Indians pitcher Jensen Lewis (Anderson) are among locals who refined their games in college.

"The players are still here. It's just that the evolution of things sees a lot more of them developing in college now," Keefe said.

This year, Keefe said, Maile is the prime local candidate to be drafted from the high school ranks. No other local high school seniors are rated in the upper reaches, as far as draft status.

"Great year for college guys," Royals scout Brian Hiler said.

Majors another story

Statistics show most MLB draftees will not reach the majors.

As an example, only 30 of 52 first-round draft picks in the 1997 draft eventually made a big-league appearance. Past the 20th round, only about 7 percent of draftees ever see the majors.

There are always future Hall of Famers such as Mike Piazza (62nd-round pick in 1988) and Albert Pujols (13th round in 1999) who defy the odds.

And for every Griffey Jr. (No. 1 overall pick in 1987), there is a Ben McDonald (No. 1 overall pick in '89).

Players such as Maile and Raleigh are realistic enough to know that most of them do not reach the professional level.

Statistics from the NCAA and HSbaseballweb.com show that approximately one in 200, or 0.5 percent, of high school senior boys playing interscholastic baseball will be drafted by a major-league team.

But their goal of at least reaching the pros is more realistic than for most.

"That's the goal, pro baseball," Maile said. "Whether it's right out of high school or if I think I need three years of college, then go pro, that's what I'll do. The draft might dictate that."

Raleigh is more likely to head to college, but the ultimate goal is moneyball.

"Live the dream and play professional baseball the rest of your life," Raleigh said. "What more could you want?"

redsmetz
06-08-2009, 11:36 AM
One of the things that jumped out at me in this article, and Groeschen addressed this, is the dearth of prospects in the Cincinnati area. The best ranks just under 300th in the country. He mentions the big number of players who came out of this area and it just doesn't seem to be happening anymore.

dougdirt
06-08-2009, 02:31 PM
Its a down year for sure in Cincinnati, but one issue is that for the last 10-15 years it seems that the best talent from the area winds up being strongly committed to colleges, which pushes them down the draft boards. A guy who scouts locally says this is just one of those weird area's where most of the guys who have the talent to get drafted out of high school are almost all very likely to be going to college because they want to, not because they need to.

redsmetz
06-08-2009, 06:43 PM
Its a down year for sure in Cincinnati, but one issue is that for the last 10-15 years it seems that the best talent from the area winds up being strongly committed to colleges, which pushes them down the draft boards. A guy who scouts locally says this is just one of those weird area's where most of the guys who have the talent to get drafted out of high school are almost all very likely to be going to college because they want to, not because they need to.

Yeah, Groeschen mentioned that too.