Baseball

Baseball prospects attend high-velocity showcase

2014-02-17T22:00:00Z 2014-02-18T03:10:27Z Baseball prospects attend high-velocity showcaseJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

SCHERERVILLE | You run, he'll gun.

Just a little advice for those tempted to take an extra base with Matt DeSomer patrolling the outfield. You may be fast, but not 95-miles-per-hour fast.

That's the radar speed DeSomer registered during a crow-hop-propelled outfield throwing drill at the Professional Scout Showcase held Feb. 9 at the Morris Baseball and Softball Center located inside Omni Health and Fitness.

"I mainly pitch but I also play right field," said the Andrean senior from Lowell. "I have been clocked as high as 89 on the mound. I've been going to velocity throwing camps (at the Morris Center), but not lately due to visiting colleges on the weekends."

DeSomer will continue his athletic career at Southern Illinois, but as a football player.

"I love both sports, but as of now I'm only playing football in college" said DeSomer, who was 8-0 with a 1.74 earned run average and hit .348 for the 59ers last spring, but really shined at quarterback the following fall while leading Andrean to an undefeated Class 3A state championship while compiling some of the most impressive numbers ever seen locally at the prep level.

"They tell me I'm best at football," said DeSomer, who completed over 80 percent of his passes for 2,512 yards and 35 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,607 yards and 19 more TD's, "but I believe I still can get better in baseball."

The showcase attracted more than 70 high school and college players from as far east as South Bend and as far west as central Illinois. Bill Bryk, the Arizona Diamondbacks' special assistant to the general manager, has organized the annual showcase for the past four years at the site, formerly occupied by the White Sox Training Centers. This was the first showcase for the Morris Center.

"We reached out to coaches whose opinions we respect in recommending the right players for this," said Chicago Cubs draft pick and former minor league player Bobby Morris, whose center took over the spot last fall. "We don't want to waste the time of the scouts and college coaches who were willing to come down here."

There were 15 professional scouts representing various Major League Baseball organizations, and several college coaches, including those from Purdue University Calumet, St. Joseph's College and Calumet College.

"We had a great turnout ... a lot of pitchers and talented catchers," Bryk said. "There were some local catchers who were real impressive like Scotty Kapers (Mount Carmel junior) and Jesse Wilkening (Hanover Central junior).

"We had Jesse clocked at 85 miles per hour throwing to second base. That's almost as good as Johnny Bench."

Among those assisting Bryk in conducting the showcase was Tom Barnard, who worked in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for 27 years. This season, Barnard will team up with Bryk to help scout the midwest region for the Diamondbacks.

"I'm excited to be back working in the Chicagoland area," said Barnard, who also operates the Athletic Barn Sports and Fitness Center in Wheaton.

While scouting for different organizations some time ago, Bryk and Barnwell attended a major league tryout camp held in the region where a tall and skinny 16-year-old catcher caught their eye.

"(Barnwell) clocked him at 90 throwing down to second base, and this was with the slow gun," Bryk said of then West Side student LaTroy Hawkins. "I said 'This guy needs to get on the mound'."

Recently signed to a second stint with the Colorado Rockies, Hawkins is due to pitch his 20th season in the major leagues.

"He's a great athlete, a great guy and has a lot of heart," Bryk said of Hawkins. "You can't overlook heart. One of my greatest mistakes was not trying to sign (hall of famer) Kirby Puckett. I paid too much attention to his size (short and pudgy) and not the size of his heart."

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