MINNEAPOLIS—The Twins have made open tryouts a tradition, but finding a potential big leaguer among the wannabes is about as likely as digging up a dinosaur on miles of open land.
Righthander J.R. Krogstad thrives on those odds.
A 22-year-old native Minnesotan who grew up in South Dakota, Krogstad has given up his career as a fossil hunter to focus on baseball after the Twins spotted him among 91 other hopefuls at their annual tryout. He garnered attention with his curveball, accepted a $500 bonus and headed to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, becoming just the fourth player to sign with the Twins out of a tryout camp in the past decade.
"You never know. He's got good size, and he throws hard, maybe 90 or 91 (mph)," farm director Jim Rantz said. "He's got a really good curveball, and our guys wanted to see what he can do with it."
Truth is, Krogstad doesn't know, either. His high school in Custer, S.D., didn't have a baseball team, and he didn't attend college, choosing instead to go into business as a paleontologist. He has dug up dinosaur bones all over the Black Hills and northern Rockies, making a decent living providing fossils to museums.
"It's a great job. I know what to look for, and you just stay with it until it pays off," said Krogstad, who has been hunting for dinosaur bones since he was 14. "It's a lot of fun."
In his free time, he competed in a senior recreation league, pitching to other paleontologists, many of whom were in their 40s. "It wasn't the highest quality baseball, but it allowed me to pitch," Krogstad said, though the Twins says his lack of experience means he must quickly learn how to set up hitters and hold baserunners.
Pro baseball seemed like an impossible dream, but his teammates persuaded him to give it a try. He enrolled in the American Baseball Institute in Florida last spring, then drove to Fort Myers, Fla., after hearing the Twins were looking for all comers.
"We've always given kids a chance, especially Minnesota kids," Rantz said. "Every once in awhile, you find a player."
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• Twins 2009 sandwich-round pick Matt Bashore, a lefty who pitched in only one game before having a pair of arm surgeries, returned to action with Rookie-level Elizabethton after almost two years of inactivity.