GARY | Albert Carpen had been through his share of tryouts.
An outfielder in the Texas Winter League and then United League last season, Carpen earned a spot with Rio Grande Valley with what he showed in an open tryout. He played for RailCats manager Greg Tagert and knew what to expect when the Gary American Association team held its annual tryout Wednesday.
What drew the Clark grad in again – after a season in Australia's Greater Brisbane Baseball League – was a chance to play for a home crowd.
"I've always wanted to play near home," Carpen said. "I grew up playing here in high school, and I wanted the opportunity to play for the RailCats. I figured I'd give it one more shot. It's Gary, and it'll work out, otherwise I'll start a career."
Tagert kept five players from the 39 that tried out Wednesday, and Carpen's name wasn't on the final list. But Tagert also kept Carpen's number.
Like his roster signings the rest of the offseason, Tagert opted to keep his team young. Though there were players with experience in Major League farm systems, he kept five players with high potential and not as lengthy a background.
"We had some experience here ... but we stayed the course and if we were going to bring some guys out of this tryout, we wanted them to fit the profile of what we've been looking at most of this offseason," Tagert said. "The five guys we've taken are all rookies."
North Newton grad and Crown Point resident Mike Schroeder was among the players kept. Schroeder was a member of the Times second-team all-area squad as a senior and to the All-Great Lakes Valley Conference second-team as a junior and senior at Lewis University.
Schroeder tried out for the RailCats at their mid-March open tryout in Tennessee as a pitcher, and Tagert asked him to return to try again at first base.
"He was a pleasant surprise," Tagert said. "He was a great two-position player in college. And unfortunately when we're dealing with a lot of numbers, (they have) to pick one position. I think the natural thing for a guy to pick when he says left-handed pitching is that's the best way to get a job. There were two other Frontier League teams participating in the (Tennessee) tryout and when he asked to try out again, we said, 'Let's see you as a first baseman,' and he was impressive."
Schroeder graduated from Lewis University in 2013.
Among the other players kept – outfielder Cody Hudson, pitcher Coleman Stephens, infielder Ryan Sonberg and outfielder Jeff Eubank – none have extensive professional histories.
"It's a good group, and has some talent, and I was surprised by some of the experienced players that showed up and it was tough to tell those guys," Tagert said. "Certainly I was intrigued by some of the guys out here, but in the end, if we were going to invite guys back it was going to fit with what we've been doing this offseason. Unless it had been an impact-type player that was absolute."
Players will participate in team workouts and intrasquad games when American Association spring training begins Saturday.
Clay Zavada, a pitcher on the 2013 roster, was the last player kept from the open tryout. Zavada signed with the San Diego Padres midseason last year.