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Dragon's dream close to fruition

With his performances at a showcase and during the season, Jefferson's Jason Weintraub is expected to be picked high in this June's draft.

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001


TAMPA -- Jason Weintraub is like a good sandwich. Well, at least he hopes he is.

The Jefferson pitcher has prepared for years in anticipation of this June. He has added a little something here, thrown a little more on there, all with the hopes of making himself one of the most attractive items on the baseball draft menu.

Weintraub is hoping all of the years of balancing on two-by-fours and swinging bats until his hands bled will lure a hungry team; a team willing to step up and order a 6-foot-3 right-hander with speeds in the 90s and turn him into their main course for years to come.

"It's been a dream of mine and my father's for me to get drafted," Weintraub said. "We've studied books and watched videotapes. It's his dream, too."

Weintraub, 7-3 with an ERA of less than 1.00, has had a steady diet of major league scouts at most of his games this season. He played in showcase games last summer, and he has hired a personal trainer, who helped him put on about 25 pounds.

Internet chat rooms have predicted him going as high as a sandwich pick -- a draft choice between the first and second rounds teams receive as compensation for losing a star player through free agency.

The thought of being a high draft choice isn't a new one for Weintraub. Although the reality of it is.

He grew up playing in Town N' Country and can remember catching flyballs and facing pitches from his father late into the night. He has done exercises in which he goes through his pitching motion with a towel in his hand for resistance. He has thrown off of an elevated two-by-four, trying to improve his balance.

His hands still are calloused from the "millions" of swings he took, perfecting the motion that makes him one of Jefferson's most dangerous hitters.

But it wasn't until a Team One showcase last summer that Weintraub got the idea he could go pretty high. That was when the scouts noticed the junior pitcher who had grown 5 inches in one year. They read the speed guns at a tournament in Jupiter and saw the 91, 92, and 93 mph fastballs and changeups Weintraub said can hit 82 mph.

That's when they started making plans to watch Jefferson whenever the school's new single-season strikeout leader -- he has 110 so far -- was on the mound.

That also is when Weintraub started thinking about more than just getting drafted. He started thinking about where he could get drafted and how that would help his family out financially.

"It does have to do with the money, not the (draft position)," said Weintraub, who has signed with South Florida. "Me and my family are going to see how much it's going to take."

Weintraub said he does not know what the magic number is. He is playing in a showcase May 25-27 in Sebring, which will feature virtually all of the top prospects from Florida. After that, he said he and his family will sit down and "decide what I'm worth."

"If it doesn't work out with the draft, I have USF to fall back on," he said.

In the meantime, Weintraub will go about preparing for Dunedin, whom the Dragons face in Tuesday's regional quarterfinal. He will walk in and out of the same clubhouse players like Tino Martinez and Tony LaRussa dressed in. He can walk past a wall featuring pictures of all of the Dragons who have played in the major leagues. And he will dream of someday being on that wall.

"I have a lot of good memories here," Weintraub said. "I would love to have something in (the clubhouse). Maybe someday I can come back here and build something for Coach (Pop) Cuesta, like a batting cage or something."

As he said it, Weintraub looked up and smiled at the two batting cages next to him. One read "Luis Gonzalez Batting Cage;" the other "Fred McGriff Batting Cage."

Want more?

For the complete state baseball pairings, check out:

www.fhsaa.org/sports/baindex.htm

For the complete state softball pairings, check out:

www.fhsaa.org/sports/sbindex.htm

Tuesday's regional baseball games

All games at 7:30 unless noted.

CLASS 6A: Sarasota Riverview at Durant, 7

Gaither at Venice

CLASS 5A: Countryside at Ridgewood

Sarasota at King

Gulf at Seminole

Wharton at Charlotte, 7

Plant City at Kissimmee Osceola

CLASS 4A: Jefferson vs. Dunedin (at Dunedin Stadium)

East Bay at Northeast, 4

Clearwater at Leto

Dixie Hollins at Sebring

Central at Gainesville Eastside, 4

Palatka at Pasco

CLASS 3A: Frostproof at Tampa Catholic, 4

Jesuit at Avon Park

Crystal River at Lakeland Santa Fe

CLASS 2A: Shorecrest at Berkeley Prep, 7

Fort Meade at Northside Christian, TBA

CLASS A: Seven River Christian at Jacksonville Country Day, 4

Canterbury vs. Seminole Pres., 7 (at Doc Nance Field)

Temple Heights at Indian Rocks Christian, TBA

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