Locals take shot at Reds camp

June 23, 2001|By ROBERT FULTON, Special to this newspaper

Runny-nosed youngsters stare at their posters of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and dream about it.

High-schoolers sleep with their gloves tucked underneath their pillows and fantasize about it.

Old men reflect on past glories and the coulda-woulda-shouldas.

The "it" is playing Major League Baseball.

The road to joining the big leagues is a long and winding one. One does not wake up one morning and command a $250 million contract. One does not just arise and finds himself on a Wheaties box. World Series rings are no accident. No, a lot of work goes into the catching of the big-league dream.

On Saturday at Central Union High School in El Centro, more than 50 people with big-league dreams took a step in their journey to lofty goals at the Cincinnati Reds Major League Baseball try-out camp.


The camp attracted wannabes and hopefuls ranging in age from 16-23. Players from Yucca Valley, Los Angeles, Mexicali and Minnesota joined those from the Imperial Valley to showcase their skills.

Local high school stars such as Brett Cochran, Patrick Aguirre and D.J. Hastings strutted their stuff in front of Reds' onlookers.

The camp benefited in two fashions. One was that eager young minds with raw physical skills were given assistance by some of the best in the business, while those who make the big-league dream come true for some and crush it for others got a chance to see what locals have to offer.

In addition to the usual running and throwing drills, a scrimmage was played to give the participants different looks.

"They get to know what a professional level camp is," said Fred Yturralde, a local Reds scout. "We give them tips on their games. We had a lot of follow-ups (from last year's camp). It's a way to pick up pointers."

Every position had eager hopefuls wanting to show what they can do.

"We encouraged the player to put down one position only," Yturralde said. "We tried to get them all looked at."

The camp this year had its largest turnout because a camp to be held earlier at College of the Desert in Palm Desert was canceled.

Everyone wins with such a camp, as the Reds organization gets some exposure in addition to the opportunity given to the young players.

"Try to have as much PR as possible," Yturralde said. "The area supervisor has to have two camps per year. This was one of our better camps as far as potential."

When the term "the dogs days of summer" was coined, El Centro probably was not on anyone's mind, but it is quite appropriate here. The camp was held in the morning, but it was still hot, and 100-degree heat is not the ideal condition to play ball.

"It was not that bad," Yturralde said. "They held their own."

The fruits of the camp will be determined down the line. Some will be disappointed while others may someday don a pro baseball uniform.

Either way, the participants at least can say they took a swing.

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