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County players make rounds of cattle-call tryout camps

The baseball camps are held by major league teams in preparation for the next draft.

By BRANT JAMES

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 21, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- With many of those taken in Major League Baseball's most recent first-year players draft filing into minor league assignments, or still deciding whether to sign, major league clubs already are preparing for the next roundup.

They have done so with cattle-call tryout camps where they evaluate the stock of rising seniors. Hernando High's Dee Brown, Jason Dunn and Stephen Blanton have participated in two such camps already, and have another chance to impress scouts today at an Arizona Diamondbacks combine in Jacksonville.

Springstead's JT Fobell pitched for Pittsburgh Pirates scouts in Bradenton two weeks ago, a camp that the Hernando threesome and Central's Patrick Ryan, Rich Lisi, Jamie McElfresh and Jerad Brotherwood also attended. Brown, Dunn and Blanton also have worked out for the Cincinnati Reds.

All four players were named to the All-Hernando/Citrus baseball team after their junior seasons. Brown, a centerfielder, was player of the year after batting .515 with 15 home runs. Dunn was 7-5 with four saves and a 1.79 earned-run average as a pitcher and batted .422. Blanton, a first baseman, batted .364 with nine home runs.

Scouts are allowed minimal contact with underclassmen during the workouts. They usually make one brief announcement about the format of the camp before it begins, then stand aside and start timing, assessing and jotting.

"You look at (the scouts) half the time and it looks like they're about to fall asleep," Hernando coach Tim Sims said. "Basically, they put the clock on them and check out their arm strength and write it down. Then they come back in the spring and compare their notes to what they took in the camp."

Springstead coach Tracy Clark was quick to recommend Fobell, a slender right-hander who went 6-1 with a 3.83 earned-run average this season, when the Pirates called looking for prospects.

"They had seen or heard of him and wanted to know if I thought he would want to go," Clark said. "I passed the information on to (Fobell) and obviously he wanted to do it. I fully believe he will pitch at the next level somewhere, so it made sense for him."

Working out for scouts is no guarantee of being drafted. Former Springstead pitcher Bobby Sindelar and Hernando catcher Chris Cole each attended the camps as rising seniors and neither was selected. Sindelar honored his scholarship at the University of Florida, and Cole is set to attend Florida State.

MELKO IN: Former Springstead third baseman Bryan Melko, an All-Hernando/Citrus first-team selection, will play next season at Saint Leo University.

Melko batted .422, knocked in 23 runs, and led Hernando County with three triples. He did not make an error in the regular season.

"We took Bryan up for a one-day tryout where there were a bunch of other guys," Clark said. "(Coach Ed Stabile) said it is hard to tell a lot from a one-day thing, but he could see he was a talented player and he was taking the word of other coaches he was a quality player."

Melko's playing status or scholarship has not been finalized.

Saint Leo finished the regular season 37-17 and tied for third in the Sunshine State Conference.

ARROYO IN NEW YORK: Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Bronson Arroyo, a Hernando High graduate, will start Friday against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.

Arroyo is 0-0 with a 5.40 earned-run average in two starts.

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