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Ball players go for their dreams

June 22, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

It's almost every kid's dream to grow up and become a big league baseball player.

Some kids grow up and are blessed by the baseball Gods with the talent and ability to make that dream come true.

Others have to work their butts off day in and day out and hope they get a few breaks along the way.

For about two dozen area baseball players, the dream got that much closer at an open Cincinnati Reds tryout camp in El Centro on Saturday.

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The baseball players showed off their own games in front of area scouts Mike Wallace and Fred Yturralde on Saturday hoping to do just enough to be noticed.

"I think growing up everyone wants to be a pro baseball player. So we come out here with that in the back of our minds," said Kevin Betz, 16, of El Centro, who plays on the Central Union High baseball team. "I'm sure everyone hopes they get noticed, but if not, you're still out here having fun. If they notice you or not, at least you can say you came out here and tried."

The camp wasn't just limited to local talent. Players from Carlsbad, Cathedral City and Riverside also took part in the camp.

For those players from out of the Imperial Valley, just having the opportunity to leave an impression and expose themselves to pro scouts was worth the drive.

"I know that in my mind that I'm the best player out here. I mean, I don't walk around saying ‘All you guys suck and I'm better.' It's just an attitude you have to have," said 6-foot-5, 240-pound Jason Custer, 17, of Cathedral City. "You come here wanting to be noticed and hopefully have something come from this."

The fact is the majority of those participating in the camp won't ever hear from any of the scouts. That is the nature of the beast when it comes to breaking into professional sports.

"It's really a one in a million shot. I'd say in the 25 or 30 years we've had this camp, there's only been about three or four prospects we've gotten from here," said Yturralde, who has been a commissioned scout since 1972. "But like today, I'd say there were a few prospects that we'll be following up on."

One of those players who got some attention from the scouts was 2001 Brawley Union High graduate Sergio Romo, who is now the No. 2 pitcher at Arizona Western College near Yuma.

At 5-foot-10, 178 pounds, Romo demonstrated why he was promoted from the AWC bullpen to the No. 2 starting role, not allowing any hits to get out of the infield at the camp.

"The good thing about this camp is that you get to pitch in front of pro scouts. I basically came out here to show my ability and maybe find out what I can improve," said Romo, 19. "I honestly do think I'm doing enough to get noticed. The thing about this is, anyone can get signed. That's what these camps are held for."

Still, not everyone that attended the camp was looking to get signed to a pro deal.

There were those at the camp who really didn't care how they did in front of the scouts or what others thought about their performances.

Benny Pedroza, 22, of Brawley was like most at the camp, having gone from Little League through high school ball.

After graduating from Brawley High in '97, Pedroza's playing days came to an end. After high school he went straight to the work force and elbow troubles kept him away from the diamond.

He said he attended the Reds camp previously, once following high school and again when he was 20, but nothing came of it.

For Pedroza, his reasons were simple. He just wanted to find out if he still had it in him to play. Well, his question was answered Saturday.

"Yeah, I think I can still do it. That was the only reason I came out here. It's been about five years since I last played competitive baseball and I just wanted to see if I could still do it," said Pedroza. "I think what I might end up doing is going down to Mexicali and playing there. I don't know. I guess it's just a matter of playing on a regular basis and getting back in to it again."

Whether it's someone like Pedroza, who will more than likely never make it to "The Show," or a prospect like Romo, who has an outside shot at making it, Yturralde said he'll continue to run these camps for anyone and everyone looking to follow their dream.

"It's a pleasure having these camps in the Valley. These guys come out here and all have great attitudes and that makes it a pleasure," said Yturralde.

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