The Roast Returns To The East Coast

LAKELAND, Fla.–The final pitches of the 2007 East Coast Professional Showcase are methodically thumping the mitt this afternoon in Lakeland. There haven’t been a lot of fireworks, as many of the scouts and college recruiters have shoved off to find their next game, many of them heading to the airport to fly across the country for the Area Code Games, the same ticket I’ll punch shortly, departing Tampa for L.A., to catch a look at the West Coast version of this event.

Friday’s marathon had its share of highlights, but the brutal heat and quadruple-header made for some forgettable moments, as well.As exciting as it was to see Sonny Gray and Robbie Ross deal seven combined innings of high-energy stuff Tuesday night, those in attendance during the 16 hours of baseball played at Joker Marchant Stadium Friday were reminded that the field was full of 16 and 17-year-olds.

No offense to the players, but the Reds/Padres nightcap was one of the worst displays of this game I’ve ever witnessed. It featured 19 walks, 11 wild pitches, five passed balls, three hit batsmen, 22 strikeouts and six errors. And I was one of probably 100 scouts and coaches to sit through every merciless pitch. In the bottom of the sixth, half of a splinttered bat came pinwheeling right at me and a scout who were standing down the third base line, and I barely had the energy to move out its way. Actually, I was hoping it might hit me, knocking me into (or out of, at that point) a coma. (Managed to get the run-time, by the way, after sidestepping the barrel…4.63). After arriving at 7:28 a.m., I left at 11:31 p.m. So, you’d like to get into amateur scouting?

The Reds/Padres game should have ended in the second inning, the last time something noteworthy occurred. One of the players this week who made a nice move up follow lists was Tyler Yockey, just ask his mom. The outfielder from Duson, La., population 1,651, deposited a Chris Matulis (Park Vista High, Lake Worth, Fla.) fastball over the wall in right field for a grand slam that awoke the exhausted group of scouts and coaches still in attendance, and sending the proud Mrs. Yockey into quite a fit of exultation. “My son just got a scholarship!” she squealed as Yockey was greeted by his teammates at home plate.

Yockey had already made an impression, thanks to a good swing with leverage and extension, but the blast, along with another two hard-contacts he had in last night’s game, helped boost his stock.

“He might have been the guy who came in without a big reputation and really made a name for himself,” said a scouting director with an American League club. “He’s not in that top tier (of prospects), but he can hit.”

The scouts who picked the six teams did an excellent job of finding the top high school players in their respective areas, but after the ECPS, the reality is that the high school Class of 2008, at least the East Coast prospects, simply aren’t that good.

“I thought there were some arms, a National League scouting director said. “But you’ve already said it (in previous articles about this year’s class), the position players just aren’t that impressive, at least not as compared to (2007).

“But I hear the West Coast is going to be a little bit better. I’m anxious to get out to Area Codes and Aflac to get a better look at the high school guys out there.”

See you there.