Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 37
Hancock baseball is host to its first-ever Scout Day
BY KRISTINA SEWELL
Seeds were flying and balls were soaring at John Osborne Field on Nov. 15. The autumn chill in the air couldn’t mask the hum of anticipation and anxiety emanating from Allan Hancock College’s baseball players. Twenty-five Bulldog athletes had the opportunity to showcase their talent for a group of men with the power to change the course of their baseball futures.
Scouts from 15 professional major-league organizations ventured to Santa Maria last week to see what Hancock baseball has to offer. From the Brewers to the Yankees, the New York Mets to the Chicago Cubs, and the Minnesota Twins, scouts had a chance to build background on some of Hancock’s more promising sophomores.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of interest from professional organizations in many of our sophomores,” head coach Chris Stevens said in a statement from Hancock athletics. “This is an opportunity for our guys to create some interest and for scouts to gather pertinent information.”
This event was the first of its kind to take place under Stevens at Hancock. The following day, the scouts headed up to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo to check out more baseball talent.
Hancock pitching coach Clarence Griego said the event came about largely because the staff felt there was enough talent on the team. The program reached out to several organizations and news of the showcase spread through word of mouth.
“We had nine pitchers and 15 position players, so we were able to showcase both sides of the ball,” Griego said.
Scout Day included batting practice, infield and outfield practice, a 60-yard sprint for time, and a live game. The pitching coach said the scouts were looking primarily for base speed and bat speed.
“They are grading based on five tools: speed, hitting for average, power, defense, and arm strength,” he said.
As for pitchers, Griego said scouts want to see a strong downward plane on the ball and differences in velocity. In addition, the major league wants athletes who are big and sturdy and whose skills translate into professional ball. But even with all the right tools, making it to “the show” is a tough and rare road.
“The odds are against you so that’s why we emphasize school. Your odds of playing at a four-year are much better,” Griego said. “Even so, scouts are good for spreading information to college[s], and today was about getting information out on our guys.”
Guys like sophomore Conor Girard, a 6-foot-4, right-handed pitcher all the way from Alabama. Girard, who is only 19, was clocked at Scout Day throwing in the low 90s and he hasn’t even hit his prime.
Another player looking to get on the scout radar for the 2014 First Year Player Draft for the MLB is Felipe Gonzalez. A sophomore and Santa Ynez graduate, Gonzalez is known for his consistent hitting, having averaged .351 last season for batting. Others include Nipomo alum and pitcher Marc Baker and St. Joseph graduate John Drury, another pitcher.
Then there’s sophomore lefty hurler Nathan Thompson from Santa Ynez. Last season, Thompson ranked 13th in California for strikeouts—big things are expected for him this season. The pitcher said he was excited but nervous about this rare opportunity.
“It was a big deal—there were a lot of scouts and a lot of anticipation,” Thompson said. “I felt anxious knowing all those eyes are on you, but I just tried to do what I normally do and go through my normal routine.”
Thompson, who is clocked between 82 and 85 miles per hour, said his best pitch is his change up because its trajectory looks similar to his fastball.
“From a pitching standpoint, scouts want to see strikes thrown, velocity, and the movement on your ball as it comes through the strike zone,” he said.
For the upcoming season, the hurler said he wants to improve his strength and the command of his pitches.
When asked to describe the day in three words, Thompson came up with, “nervous, fun, and exciting.”
“This is the first year we have introduced this event,” he said. “We are definitely a program scouts look at and our coaches do a good job of getting us to the next level.”
According to Hancock Athletics, seven former Bulldogs have been drafted to the MLB, including two players in the 2013 draft.
“These kids are in the spotlight and have a chance to catch the eye of a scout,” Stevens said in a statement. “That’s what it takes for a chance to play pro-ball.”
Staff Writer Kristina Sewell was a Girl Scout. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.