Hopefuls try out for spot with Mets

July 22, 2005|by TONY BUDNY


On June 2, 1925, regular Yankee first baseman Wally Pipp sat out a game because, as legend goes, he had a bout with a chronic headache. The Yankees were in a losing streak anyway, so manager Miller Huggins decided to give his young players a chance to play with no pressure. The player that replaced Pipp was Lou Gehrig.

Even though opportunities as monumental as that are rare, Thursday about a dozen players attended the New York Mets open tryout at Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown in hopes they could, as Mets regional scout Matt Wondolowski said, "be in the right place at the right time."

"Usually, these types of events are used to fill voids in the organization, those being free agent needs. We don't have any openings at this time, but we hope we can find some players to follow to the 2006 draft," Wondolowski said.


This type of tryout opportunity is held throughout the country, said Wondolowski, the scout in charge of the Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Eastern Tennessee area. Wondolowski said that the team hopes to follow up in the spring and see where some of their talent from around the country stand as far as improvement, especially younger prospects.

In the past four years, the Mets have signed two or three players to professional contracts to play in their farm system for teams such as the Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Mets, Wondolowski said.

Eric Laird, 19, a catcher at Hagerstown Community College, came from his home on the Eastern Shore to the tryout. He said he heard of the tryout on the Internet and since he would be in the area decided to go and see what happens.

Robert Eiker, 20, from Waynesboro, Pa., a graduate of Catoctin High School, said he had attended tryouts at other organizations as well.

"I've been to Orioles tryouts and others. To play professional baseball has really been a dream of mine since I was little," he said.

Ross Cook, 22, a graduate of the University of North Carolina, and Jason St. Julien, 22, a graduate of North Carolina State, came here as part of a long journey through other organizational tryouts.

They had both tried out for the Toronto Blue Jays, Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres and other teams. They also are heading to Philadelphia for a Phillies tryout today.

Four players from Maracaibo, Venezuela, also tried out. They were visiting with their coach, Franklin Garcia, according to their interpreter, Freddy Rel, of Silver Spring, Md.

"I knew they were coming (to the United States) and I knew about this tryout, so I said to their coach 'why not come out and try?' You never know when their chance might be," he said.

The tryout included outfielding practice, which including fielding ground balls hit to the outfield and throws to home plate and third base; infielding practice, with throws to home and first base; batting practice; catcher drills, with throws to second base from home plate; a pitching exhibition; and a timed 60-yard dash for each player.

"If you stick to it, things might open up. Some guys get discouraged quickly and decide to go on to different jobs," Wondolowski said. "That's when the opportunities come up. With a little bit of luck, persistence, and talent, these guys who come to these tryouts could end up on a professional roster someday."

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