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Players take advantage of spotlight |

Players take advantage of spotlight

| Tuesday, July 17, 2007 12:00 a.m

FREEPORT — The National Scouting Report baseball showcase got a head start on the 13th annual Freeport International Baseball Invitational on Monday as more than 30 youngsters displayed various baseball-related skils at James Swartz Memorial Field.

Running times, defensive distance throwing times and injury-prevention techniques were among the sessions held yesterday.

The event was conducted by Cecil Township resident Ron Vrana, Allegheny Regional Director of National Scouting Report.

Running skills were emphasized as each player was timed in a 180-foot sprint.

“If you don’t run well, they’ll send you home,” Vrana told the athletes assembled before the showcase got under way. “They don’t care how fast you throw or how well you hit, you have to be able to run.”

Among those participating were three local high school baseball players who are expected to have a major impact on their respective teams next year — Luke Szymanski of Ford City, David Kunkle of Burrell and Anthony Defabio of Plum.

Szymanski has attended several similar showcases over the years.

“They’re pretty much looking at a bunch of kids and see who stands out,” Szymanski said. “If you stick out, the scouts who are here will look closer at you.”

Szymanski said he plans on giving up being part of the Ford City football program to solely concentrate on baseball.

“I’ve been getting mailings from colleges but no offers so far,” the senior-to-be Szymanski said. “I’m not sure where I’m going to go.”

Players are strictly evaluated on a scale from 20 to 80, with a 20 signifying the athlete is a “good high school player.” A 50 can signal a Division I or minor league pro career could be in the offing, while an 80 means a trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., for Hall of Fame enshrinement is likely.

Szymanski showed well in infield drills while Kunkle got the radar gun into the 80-mile-per-hour range during the pitching skills sector.

One pitcher who appeared to open many eyes was Toronto’s Jordan Glover, a member of the Mets team who will be appearing in the Invitational.

One of the top performances yesterday was turned in by Defabio, a catcher who threw three perfect stikes to the right corner of second base during the home-to-second base session, ran well during the sprints and blocked low pitches well.

The three local standouts are part of a drive to showcase Western Pennsylvania talent more often.

“There’s some good talent out there that’s really not getting noticed,” Vrana said. “We’re not a highly recruited area. You don’t think of western PA as a great baseball area, but a lot depends of the attitude of the kid and if he’s going to put out that extra effort.”

Vrana was assisted by Claudio Reilsono, the coach of Carnegie Mellon’s club baseball team.

Players who do well during the session can advance to the national showcase game in Birmingham, Ala., on Aug. 15.

13th annual Freeport International Baseball Invitational

When: Today through Saturday

Where: Six area fields (James Swartz Memorial Field in Freeport, Highlands High School Field in Harrison Township, Springdale High School Field in Springdale, Ford City Athletic Field in Ford Cliff, SEBCO Field at Laura J. Doerr Park in Jefferson Township, Valley Baseball/Softball Complex in Arnold)

Teams: About 35 Colt and Legion level teams with players ages 15-18 expected

Special events: Players’ showcase and recruiting seminar, celebrity/old-timers’ game, home run derby, two-day Future Freeport Invitational for teams with players ages 9-10 and 11-12, All-American vs. All-International game, 5K race, and fireworks show.

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