Players and scouts alike opened their eyes to a new world of baseball Tuesday as the Atlanta Braves organization held a tryout camp at the West High School diamond.
Braves Area Supervisor Sherard Clinkscales and Recommending Scout Dave Welter conducted the camp, which tested some of the Midwest's best young players, ages 15-21, for speed as well as throwing and hitting ability. Although most of the participants were from northeast Iowa, others attended from Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska.
The Waterloo stop was the first of its kind for the Braves and their two area-based coaches, who took a look at 85 players.
Meanwhile, the players were also taking a look around, and making mental notes of their own.
"Really, I'm just hoping to find out where I'm at, if I have a chance to still be playing," said recently graduated West catcher Joe Bolick, who hit over .400 this past season for the Warhawks.
Certainly, none of the participants expected to be discovered Tuesday and whisked off to the big leagues. Instead, they hoped to leave good impressions while gauging the level of talent around them.
"I wanted to see how good I am compared to other people in the area," said Chris Weidman, who helped lead Denver High School to a Class 2A substate final last month as a junior.
Weidman likely got his answer during an outfield session that required players to track down a ball near the warning track and fire to home plate. Weidman, a first baseman during the prep season, was the first of just a few to unleash
throws that reached home on the fly.
"He's got a gun," said Denver teammate and pitcher Ryan Flickinger.
Clinkscales, a former seventh-round draft choice by the Royals, and Welter, a former head baseball coach at Cedar Falls High School, rated the players on the 20-80 scale. Eighty is the best score one can achieve in an area, and a few individuals drew such a mark after 6.6-second clockings in the 60-yard dash across the outfield.
"An 80 means you're an outstanding runner, or outstanding at throwing or hitting, "explained Welter, who's assisted the Braves since 1989. Welter was a scout for the Reds from 1977-89.
"A 20 means you're not going to get much of a look from the pros. A 40 means you're a kid we'll follow. Most average pro players have an average of 60 or so.
"We share that with them after," Welter added. "No matter what kind of tools they have, we tell them what they can improve on."
"You're here just to throw your name out there," Flickinger reasoned. "They're looking for pitchers who can throw in the upper 80s and 90s. It's not that you expect them to accept you right away out here."
Nate Schoepske, three years removed from West High, is still testing the pro waters.
"I'm just trying to see what it takes," he explained. "There's still room for improvement, a lot of improvement.
"But they're looking for a person's special talent. Anyone who can throw it hard, or hit it well."
This same camp has made stops in past years in Norway and Iowa City, while other organizations have held camps in Waterloo. Still, Welter guessed it had been 7-8 years since the last pro organization held such a camp in the metro
And Tuesday's head count in the mid-80s surpasses the 30-60 that first-year camps usually attract, said Welter.
West head coach Roger Hoel was on hand as were a couple of his future players in Wahawk sophomores-to-be Steve Prideaux and Matt Young.
"It's a good learning experience," said Prideaux. "You get to see what it takes to play up there (in varsity-level baseball)."
Welter, meanwhile, saw enough to know that his day's work was probably worth the effort.
"The talent level was good today," he said. "In this kind of situation, if you see one, two, three guys with tools that you're looking for, it's a good day."