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Rashid Sobolev
Rashid Sobolev

A College Baseball Player Was Called Out For Mi...

His home run total is the highest for any college player during the BBCOR bat era, a mark previously held by Kris Bryant and his 31 home runs for San Diego in 2013. And when Pierce reaches for examples of seasons that remind him of this one for Melendez, he reaches for the heavy hitters.

A college baseball player was called out for mi...

At this point, no one is second-guessing Melendez coming back to Austin. The Texas offense rolled into Omaha, where the team was ousted by Texas A&M, as one of the best units in all of college baseball, thanks in no small part to others taking center stage when opposing pitching staffs have attempted to work around Melendez.

Minor League Baseball teams don't hold open tryouts, and the path players take to reach the Minors (and the Majors) isn't always simple. Most players currently in the Minors or Majors were drafted or signed as free agents. Either way, they were all scouted and watched by someone along their journey to the pros.Those who slipped through the cracks could have, until 2015, attended open tryouts hosted by the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau -- Angels right-hander Dillon Ortman attended one such tryout last year and walked away with a contract, appearing in 16 Minor League games at three levels last summer. The MLB Scouting Bureau annually held tryout camps around the country open to anyone 16 and older who wanted a chance to play. Those open tryouts, according to Scouting Bureau director Bill Bavasi, will no longer be held as of this year. The level and amount of talent showing up to camps have dwindled, as has attendance from scouts for Major League teams. Sometimes, the reality of reaching your dream to play in the Majors is a painful one."It's easy to say, 'Be realistic,' but it's not that easy to be realistic," said Bavasi. "I don't always want to be realistic. I never wanted to crush anyone's dreams."Bavasi, who spent more than 10 years as the general manager of the Angels and Mariners, said he's spoken to a countless number of young men over the years who want a chance to play professionally. Some played in school and weren't drafted. Some have overcome injuries and just want to play baseball in general. Some are just flat-out misguided in believing they are good enough to play professionally.The reality, Bavasi said, is that those good enough to make the cut are going to eventually be scouted and heard about. According to a 2013 study by the NCAA, only two percent of college athletes end up going pro. For high school baseball players, the study found the odds of being drafted out of high school are 200 to 1 -- of roughly 475,000 high school baseball players, 0.50 percent ended up playing professionally, or about 2,375.Every player in the Minor Leagues is an employee of a Major League organization, and they've all signed a contract with a Major League team and were then assigned to a Minor League affiliate's roster. Thus, Minor League teams have no say on what players fill their rosters, and so they can't -- and don't -- hold tryouts.Players sign contracts after they've been drafted out of high school or college, or as free agents. It's extremely rare -- think Ichiro or Cuban sensation Jose Abreu -- for a player to not begin his professional career in the Minors.But what about players who don't get drafted? What options to do they have?Bavasi said the most important thing an aspiring player can do is to continue playing at whatever level he can find, be it college, in a collegiate wood bat or summer league, or with an independent league team. If you're playing, and you're good enough, someone in baseball will hear about you.

"There's no end of showcases or games or independent leagues; there's so many opportunities to play baseball," said Bavasi. "That's besides 30 teams having six or seven of their own teams. There's tons of baseball opportunities. I think the independent leagues are probably the best non-affiliated situation you could get with, no doubt about that."Independent league teams are not affiliated with MLB or Minor League Baseball, but they can often be a good venue for players to get experience and potentially get noticed by a big league scout. Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava became a memorable success story when he joined an indy club, hit .371 and was ranked by Baseball America as the best prospect in the independent leagues. The Red Sox saw his name on the list and purchased his contract in 2008, leading eventually to a Major League career.Indy clubs offer open tryouts, and they often feature former college players or Minor Leaguers who were released. Even veteran Major Leaguers like Roger Clemens and Jose Canseco have taken a shot with indy clubs."Those are the real, viable options to kind of throw into the mix," said Bavasi. "That's the opportunity I'm talking about."Though the MLB Scouting Bureau's open tryouts won't be held this year, Bavasi said the Bureau would love to hold open tryouts again in the future if Major League teams were interested in having them. Attendance from scouts over the past few years has dwindled at the Bureau's open tryout camps, so they're now focusing on invitation-only tryouts. The Bureau's role is to evaluate talent and provide information on those players to all 30 Major League clubs -- their open tryouts in the past served as an opportunity for team scouts to come out and see aspiring players.Major League teams themselves, however, often host their own open tryout camps -- the dates and locations of those are posted annually on around April or May or on team websites; it's literally as easy as Googling "Astros open tryout" to find details. For example, the Atlanta Braves held 15 open tryouts around the country last year, from South Dakota to Texas to Florida, sending scouts to each. The Brewers hosted three tryouts last year, with two of them taking place at nearby Minor League ballparks. The Rangers signed one of more than 400 players who attended their open tryout in 2012. The Tigers held an open tryout this year on March 9 at the Minor League complex in Lakeland.The Dodgers hosted their annual open tryout last February and signed two players -- they even posted a phone number to their scouting hotline. Four of the Phillies' five open tryouts in 2014 were held at Minor League ballparks. Another success story, former college outfielder Bill Rice went undrafted but signed with the Phils after an open tryout in 2010 and spent three seasons in the Minors.But for the general open tryout camps held by MLB in the past, things are changing. At one tryout last year, NBC News reported that, of the 400 players who attended, only one was signed by a Major League team. A report by Fusion last August cited Bureau scout Brad Fidler, who said pitchers would need to throw over 90 mph just to get noticed."The open tryout is a real tough road, and you're talking to somebody who, back in the day, looked for replacement players. We had 900 players come through in one day, I've seen it all," said Bavasi. "I've seen open tryouts. The problem is they're not good for the young guys trying to hook on unless [the camp is] attended solidly by clubs. If they're not there, it doesn't do any good."So why aren't Major League scouts coming to open tryouts anymore? In general, scouts haven't found many tryout attendees worth signing, so the tryouts aren't worth their time. Invitational tryouts, Bavasi said, should be more well-attended by team scouts.

"The invitation-only tryouts that we had, they were attended by big league clubs. And the open tryouts weren't. So that's why we came to this conclusion," he said.Can a player request an invitation? That's not how it works, for the most part."Can you harass yourself onto a tryout list? Probably not," said Bavasi. "Can somebody sponsor you and put a call in for you and get you in? Yeah, that's a possibility; that does happen I'm sure. And those guys are probably a pretty good player anyway who just got overlooked." Ortman, Auburn University's ace in 2014, said he was signed by the Angels a week after he threw 15-20 pitches at the Scouting Bureau's open tryout last June."They called me -- they said they didn't see me at the tryout, but they were thinking about drafting me, and they never did," Ortman said. "After the Draft they said, 'Hang on for a couple weeks. We'll stay in touch.' But I was looking for a spot to open up. I'm thinking, 'I can wait or go to this tryout and get my name out there a little more,' so I decided to do that."Ortman said he read about the open tryout online and had also considered trying out for an independent league team if things didn't pan out."It was great to be seen by other guys and get my name out there," he said. "I threw 15-20 pitches to show them why they should have drafted me. I showed my best stuff. I had a fellow pitcher out there who went to Auburn with me, Mike O'Neal. There were over 400 people out there, and it was good to see a familiar face I could long toss with."

O'Neal, a left-hander, is another example of how high the bar is to break into the Minors. He went 3-6 with a 4.29 ERA in 17 games last year at Auburn -- decent enough numbers in the SEC -- but was not drafted and wasn't signed after his tryout. He ended up with an indy club, the Florence Freedom of the Frontier League, where he went 2-7 with a 7.12 ERA in 11 games last summer."I was really hoping to get picked up by an MLB team, and a few teams called me and told me to hang around for a week," Ortman said. "I thought this was the best opportunity to try out and get my name out a little more."Ortman said the experience wasn't nerve-wracking, since he'd pitched in front of scouts for years. He said the skill level of tryout attendees varied."There were all types out there. Some had just watched a movie that inspired them to come out, and there were guys who'd played junior college, guys who threw hard but didn't throw strikes -- all types of people out there, but I thought I was the most well-rounded because of my four years in a Division I college. I had a couple MLB teams at least interested in me."Wynton Bernard , a Tigers prospect just recently added to Detroit's 40-man roster, found himself looking for an open tryout a year ago. Released by the Padres, the 23-year-old drove to Arizona for the Dodgers' open tryout but didn't make the cut. He met a scout from the Tigers and asked for advice -- the scout, Tim McWilliam, suggested Bernard head to Florida for the Tigers' tryout camp later that week."I booked the flight, hotel and the rental car -- probably $700 total," Bernard told "And I just said, 'You know what, it's worth it. I just don't want to give up on my dream.'"Bernard beat out 120 other players and was the lone player to walk away from the tryout with an invitation to Tigers Minor League camp, where he'd again need to earn a job. 041b061a72


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