News-Press from Fort Myers, Florida on June 7, 2004 · Page 28
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News-Press from Fort Myers, Florida · Page 28

Fort Myers, Florida
Issue Date:
Monday, June 7, 2004
Page 28
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' r r e r C6 THE NEWS-PRESS, SPORTS, MONDAY, JUNE 7, 2004 BASEBALL DRAFT Continued from CI Six players ever from Southwest Florida? "That's about what you'd expect," said Cincinnati Reds scout Greg Zunino, a Cape Coral resident. Most drafted players, no matter their hometown, won't make it. Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan estimated that about 10 percent of drafted players reach the majors. He expects the number from this area to grow. "Southwest Florida is getting better," Ryan said. FIGHTING THE ODDS Adam Piatt, 28, is studying to become a financial planner. Nothing will likely stop him. It's not like professional sports, where there's a finite number of jobs and a relentless Darwinian, survival-of-the-best culture at work every day. That ethic separates the few from the many, the major-leaguer from the minor-leaguer, and the minor-leaguer from amateur players not selected in the draft. Piatt, a Bishop Verot High School graduate, overcame the odds after the Oakland A's selected him in the eighth round of the 1997 draft out of Mississippi State. He played parts of four years in the majors. Talent is the primary difference between those who make it and those who don't. "You realize in this area there may be one kid who can consistently throw the ball over 90 (mph), throwing two-hitters and striking everybody out," Piatt said. "He signs and gets to instructional league. There may be one kid in this area with hands good enough to react to a 95-mile per hour fastball. The bar is raised constantly at each level." The best players from cities such as Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Naples are thrown into a pool of minor-league candidates, the best from North America selected in the draft. Then throw into that pool players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Japan, Australia and other baseball-playing countries. Most players are eliminated in the minors. Once teams start signing players from this draft, players from previous drafts will be released to make roster room for new guys. "The clock is ticking as soon as you sign that contract," Piatt said. It's progress or get released. Improve or get out. Keep up or give up. The competition is more intense than in amateur ball. Instead of two, three or maybe four games a week, they are played every day. "I'll never forget the first day," Duncan said of starting his career in the New York-Penn League. "We got to the hotel We looked at the schedule. We thought there was a misprint. It shows we have a game every day for the rest of the year except for the major-league Ail-Star break. It's a rude awakening playing seven days a week." Talent isn't the only factor. Zunino watched Piatt and Greenwell persevere. Greenwell was a third-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1982, reached the majors in 1985, stayed until 1996 and hit .303, with BO home runs, in his career. "I know they always thought they were the best," Zunino said of Piatt and Greenwell. "They always had the positive attitude." The trick for scouts is in measuring more than running speed or fastball velocity. Scouts consider intangibles that can't be measured or timed by stopwatches and radar guns. "You're supposed to be able to do that," Ryan said. "Evaluate not only skill but heart and work ethic and off-field habits, coachabili-ty. Good scouts do." Ryan remembers hearing about Sanders when the North Fort Myers High graduate was playing baseball at Florida State University. The praise was unanimous about Sanders, who was drafted twice in the 1980s. The Kansas City Royals picked him in the sixth round of the 1985 draft. Sanders didn't sign. He went to FSU. The New York Yankees selected Sanders in the 30th round of the 1988 draft. Sanders signed with the Yankees and reached the majors in 1989, hitting .263 and stealing 168 bases in a career that lasted until 2001. "An electrifying talent," Ryan said. "Could fly and go get the ball in center. He had a knack for being a pain in the neck for the opposition." Sanders had the talent and drive to not only play in the majors but also in the NFL Tangible and intangible qualities are needed to make it. But that'!! not all. "You have to be in the right MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL DRAFT: SOUTHWEST FLORIDA SELECTIONS 1987 NAME ...HIGH SCHOOLCOLLEGE ROUND .TEAM Larry Phillippe Fort Myers ". 64 Cincinnati 1968 Larry Phillippe Fort Myers 12 (2nd phase) . .Cleveland Carlos Alfonso Naples .. 10 Houston 1971 Gary Conley Fort MyersMiami-Dade North CC 2 Chi. White Sox Edmond Peres .Fort Myers 37 Philadelphia John Chapman Fort Myers. 40 San Francisco 1973 Steve Strickland Fort Myers 10 Texas 1974 Pat Putnam Fort MyersMiami-Dade North CC 12 N.Y.Mets 1975 Pat Putnam Fort MyersSouth Alabama 1 (2nd Phase) Texas 1976 Paul Tasker Edison CC 5 (2nd Phase) . . .Cleveland 1978 Duane Dewey Fort MyersMiami-Dade North CC 4 Chi. White Sox 1979 Herb Bennett Riverdale 5 ....Philadelphia Duane Dewey Fort MyersLSU .1 (2nd phase) . .Kansas City 1980 Billy Donathan Fort MyersEdison CC 13 California Bert Johnson Cypress Lake 9 Kansas City 1981 Jackie Foley .CharlotteMiami-Dade North CC 6 Cincinnati Cal Santarelli Edison CC 6 Montreal North Fort Myers High School graduate Mike Greenwell was drafted in the third round of the 1982 draft by the Boston Red Sox. THE NEWS-PRESS FILE PHOTO 1982 Mike Greenwell North Fort Myers 3 Boston Billy Donathan Fort MyersLSU ; . . .15 St. Louis 1983 Steve Rollings Edison CC 11 N.Y. Yankees 1084 Charles Wacha Edison CC 42 Cleveland Billy Wolf Barron Collier ..36 N.Y.Yankees Ken DeGroot Bishop VerotMiami-Dade North CC 16 .Minnesota Carm LoSauro Bishop VerotMiami-Dade North CC 4 Texas 1085 Charles Wacha : .Edison CC 3 Kansas City Deion Sanders North Fort Myers 6 Kansas City Chris Lee Edison CC 1 St. Louis Greg David Barron Collier 1 Toronto Chris Lee Edison CC 3 . . . . Toronto 1987 Chip Duncan Fort MyersColumbus (Ga.) College 12 .Pittsburgh Lavell Cudjo Charlotte 20 Cincinnati 1988 HerbErhardt Cape CoralPan-American Univ. 16 N.Y.Yankees Deion Sanders North Fort MyersFlorida State 30 N.Y. Yankees 1989 Ted Corbin Barron Collier 26 Philadelphia 1990 Jeff Cindrich MarinerEdison CC 54 N.Y.Yankees Mike Nolasco Lely 38 Seattle 1991 Jay Noel North Fort MyersEdison CC 18 Atlanta Mike Halperin Barron Collier 34 California 1992 Derrick Cantrell Edison CC 12 Milwaukee Kris Foster Riverdale 39 Montreal Rick Lawrence Barron Collier 8 .San Diego Chad Epperson .Bishop VerqtSeminole CC 40 N.Y. Mets Ted Corbin Barron CollierClemson 20 Minnesota 1993 Kerry Ward : . .Edison CC 4 Pittsburgh Nole Elizer Cape Coral 40 Montreal -V-? -N?,""-v '- w A vZ .34 s. . .Milwaukee ,42 '. California ,62 Florida .75 Houston .76 Houston .14 Chi. White Sox I :: u f ry -V ( Y7 , ( i ; " LM ,s, ' 11 Greg Beck Bishop VerotWest Florida Eric Knott Edison CC Tom Buckman Edison CC Jason Middleton Fort Myers Ryan Anschuetz Edison CC 1995 Tom Buckman Edison CC Jeff Smith.. NaplesStetson 20 Minnesota Aaron Underwood . . . .Lehigh 36 Montreal Brian Nelson Edison CC , 39 Seattle ChadRoney Bishop VerotJacksonville ..39 Los Angeles 1996 David Kenna North Fort Myers 3 San Francisco Jeremy Rockow Fort Myers 12 Pittsburgh Garret Osilka Edison CC .12 Milwaukee Michael Rahilly North Fort Myers 28 Montreal KirkAsche Edison CC 34 ...California Walter Ward Edison CC 38 Tampa Bay Adam Johnson Barron CollierCentral Florida 55 Atlanta Gene Richardson Edison CC 59 Chi. Cubs Jerrod Harris LaBelle ....96 Tampa Bay 1997 Adam Piatt Bishop VerotMississipoi State 8 Oakland Joel Pineiro Edison CC Brian Ferreira Barron Collier Richard Stegbauer . . .Edison CC Kevin Brown North Fort Myers Thomas Murphy Charlotte Shannon Royal Mariner .12 Seattle .36 Seattle .37 Anaheim .41 Pittsburgh .50 Arizona .55 Atlanta Riverdale High graduate Tommy Watkins was taken in the 38th round of the 1998 draft by the Minnesota Twins. THE NEWS-PRESS FILE PHOTO i r . : '1 , V 1998 i Erik Johnson Barron CollierCentral Florida 21 Colorado Mike Myers .Bishop Verot .22 Seattle i Mike Bragg Bishop Verot 34 Florida Mike Christensen . . . .Fort MyersFlorida Southern 36 Anaheim Tommy Watkins Riverdale 38 Minnesota Earnest Graham Mariner 43 Philadelphia ; Brian Ferreira Barron CollierManatee CC .48 Anaheim 1999 Tommy Winrow Bishop Verot 2 ...NY Yankees j Travis Santini Lely 19 Cleveland I Nicholas Loughren . . .Bishop Verot 44 Colorado 2000 i Tom Murphy .CharlotteFlorida Atlantic 3 Anaheim j Jon Huber North Fort Myers 5 San Diego Carmen Cali NaplesFlorida Atlantic 10 St. Louis Brad Murray LaBelleEmbry-Riddle College 27 Chi. White Sox ) Matt Steele EsteroGeorgia .28 Arizona I Luke Martin EsteroEmbry-Riddle College 34 .Minnesota ! Kevin Brown North Fort Myers Miami 44 Boston j Jason Guy Charlotte 47 .Texas RESOP TURNER CARTER BROWN SINGLETARY 2001 Chris Resop Barron Collier 4 Florida Justin Turner MarinerWarner Southern 8 . . . ; Anaheim Ryan Carter Riverdale 14 Los Angeles Eric Miller Gulf Coast 15 Tampa Bay Kevin Brown North Fort MyersMiami 19 Atlanta Elliot Singletary North Fort Myers 27 San Diego Brendan Katin Fort Myers 29 San Diego Darin Blackburn Fort Myers 30 Cincinnati ClayTimpner LaBelle 41 Texas f '' v f f. x HOWERTON FLETCHER KATIN THE NEWS-PRESS FILE PHOTO Bishop Verot High graduate Adam Piatt was selected in the 1994 draft by the New York Mets, but played decided to play college ball for Mississippi State. He later was selected in the eighth round of the 1997 draft by Oakland. 1994 Adam Piatt Bishop Verot 10 N.Y.Mets Mike Halperin Barron CollierCentral Florida 10 Toronto Martin Robinson Cape Coral 12 N.Y. Yankees Jason Welch Bishop Verot 21 Montreal Terrance Freeman . . . .Edison CC 31 Oakland 2002 Matt Howerton Riverdale 15 Baltimore Jason Fletcher Cape CoralIndian River CC 23 '. Philadelphia Dirk Kleinmann Evangelical ChristianKing College 42 Toronto Blue Brendan Katin Fort MyersOkaloosa-Walton CC .38 San Diego 2003 Jake Stevens Cape Coral 3 Atlanta Nate Spears Charlotte 5 Baltimore Andy D'Alessio Barron Collier 10 Cincinnati MattLaPorta Charlotte 14 Chi. Cubs Tavaris Gary North Fort MyersCumberland 25 St. Louis Chris Johnson Bishop Verot 37 Boston Victor Rodriguez Cape Coral 46 Boston More draft coverage: Go online to check out more local information on the Major League Baseball Draft. place at the right time," Piatt said. "I don't care how good you are. I played with guys who deserved to go but there was somebody ahead of them." PARTING WORDS Piatt has advice for players about starting careers. "Live it up," Piatt said. "Have fun. It's not life or death." On the other hand, new players have to balance fun and work. Fort Myers High graduate Putnam, Southwest Florida's first major-leaguer, was drafted twice in the 1970s. He passed up an offer from the New York Mets in 1974 to play at the University of South Alabama. The Texas Rangers selected him in 1975. He reached the majors in 1977, lasting until 1984, playing mainly first base and hitting .255 with 63 homers. Putnam, 50, also has tips for young players starting out. 'You're going to get into a business and profession," said Putnam, who works in maintenance at Lakes Regional Park. "You better take it very serious. Most likely you won't get a second chance to prove yourself. Just work hard. That's about all I can say. "If you've got the talent, you can make it." Duncan pitched for teams such as the Brother Elephants in Taiwan and the Parra-marta Patriots in Australia. He had a slacks en dorsement contract in Taiwan and a Chinese name, Deng Kea The American part of his odyssey included time in the organizations of the Pirates, Royals, Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched in a big-league spring-training game. It all started with his selection in the draft. He never pitched in the majors. Now, he has a company, CM Contracting, and no trace of bitterness over not making it. "I enjoyed every minute of it," Duncan said. 'You get close, you think you're a phone call away. I was a few times but you're not hot at the right time. It's all about a matter of timing and luck, and a little bit of talent mixed in there." Fort Myers Miracle pitching coach Eric Rasmussen has been around professional ball since 1973, the year the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in the 32nd,round He pitched for eight years in the majors and is in his sixth season as the Miracle's pitching coach He's seen what separates those who make it from those who don't. "Guys that make it and stay, stay and make an impact, are guys that are confident enough to learn their game and stay within it," Rasmussen said. "Not afraid to perform." Players starting out have to bring the right approach. "You see guys on a mission," Rasmussen said. Those are the guys, given talent, who make it. Guys such as Piatt, who retired at 28 but treasures his memories. - "You better believe it," Piatt said. "I got my money's worth." And he got to the majors. Something not many can say. Rasmussen can say it. He knows from playing and coaching how tough it is to get from draft day to the majors. "It's not that easy," Rasmussen said. "People will come up to guys who played ball in the big leagues, and not just me. We talk about it. 'Oh, I could have made it if not this or that.' "Please don't come up and tell me that because you can't. You can't ever say that. It's like me saying, 'I could drive a go-cart pretty good. Hell, I could have been a NASCAR driver.' You know what, you go and say that to a NASCAR guy and he's going to go, "What are you talking about?' " Not many have what it takes, i Only six Southwest Florida players had what it takes. So far. -M

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