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Athleticism, Ability are Key

Reprinted from the Daily Ardmoreite
Ardmore, Oklahoma
by David Seeley
Sports Editor

It's rare when any kind of Major League Baseball comes to your own town. That happened Wednesday when Tampa Bay Devils Rays coach Fernando Arango held a tryout camp at Total Park.

"This has always been a good baseball area," Arango said. "There are a lot of good players in this part of Oklahoma."

At Wednesday's tryout camp, Arango said two key facets were going to be looked at when the players performed.

"We look for athleticism and ability to play the game," he said. "They need to show they can put those things into practice.

"The two main things you see in tryouts are a 60-yard dash to see their running speed. The other thing is to throw, in both the infield and outfield, to see whether they have arm strength."

All the athletes had a card, on which valuable information was written -- such as speed in running and throwing.

"The information is taken to the front office, and we may use future tryout camps to follow these athletes in most cases," Arango said. "We'll watch them this summer or next spring. Depending on their eligibility and whether they can be signed, we may even go sign someone. We just send the information to the front office, and they make the decision."

Each position has certain needs and "tools" needed to be potentially the best qualified.

"Different positions need different tools," Arango said. "For example, first base, third base, left field and right field -- or commonly called the corner positions, hitting and power become a very important part. Behind the plate, you want a person who can catch and throw the ball, and also hit. We look for someone in centerfield who can really run. At shortstop, you need somebody who can really field the ball, go into the hole (to field the ball) and have the arm strength to get it (to first base). At second base, we look for someone who can really hit. His arm doesn't have to be as good as a shortstop's The rule we like to use is to take a shortstop and move him to second base because their arm may not be as strong. On the mound, you always look for arm strength."

Also running speed is a crucial factor.

"For first base, third base, catcher, right field and left field, running isn't critical, "Arango said. "One of the things we report on is if a guys' running ability is not what you want it to be and does he clog the bases or not. We don't want them to clog the bases when speedier runners, like Kenny Lofton, hits a ball that would normally be a stand-up triple, but has to stop at second base because the runner ahead of him can't run and is calling for the paramedics when he gets to third base."

Arango said the young players should not get their hopes up to start tryout camp or hopes dashed when tryout camp ends.

"Kids have to understand one tryout camp doesn't mean that just because you don't make it doesn't mean you can't play," he said. "They shouldn't be discouraged because there are days you won't run well or throw well. The main thing they need to understand is there's always room for improvement."

Arango, who works a five-state area in this region of the U.S., said tryout camps prepare him for the following year.

"It gives me a head start on being able to go out with a list ready for next year of the younger players," he said. "That's why we do these things -- to get an idea of talent out there that's able to help us."

Ardmore and KKAJ/Post 65 Cardinals Legion baseball teams coach Roger Byrd said Wednesday's tryout camp bodes well for Ardmore as well as Southern Oklahoma.

"It's an honor to have a professional organization come in and use our facilities to look at players from southern, eastern, western Oklahoma as well as north Texas," Byrd said. "We're excited to have (Arango) here, and it's a great pleasure to have him here. We appreciate the time he's taking to look at these young men in the area. All these organizations have these tryout camps. They're looking for ball players for the future, maybe someone immediately. You never know."


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