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Showcase links players with college scouts

Athletes gather at Granite Bay High looking to get on the recruiting radar
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The business of athletic scholarships is becoming an art form as players, parents and coaches seek to refine the process by which they gain the attention of the college scouts. When it comes to college baseball, the rules that limit individual contact between the universities and the athletes has driven the growth of large showcases, where multiple recruiters gather at a single venue to get a look at numerous players. On Sunday, at Granite Bay High School, 80 players entering their junior and senior year in the fall, gathered to put their skills on display for more than 20 different college scouts. “We are limited more by time and the rules than by budget when it comes to evaluating players,” said Fresno State assistant coach Matt Curtis, who attended the event. “Any time you can get together a large number of prospects in one place for a large scale evaluation, it is a great opportunity for us.” The one-day showcase was put on by Roseville-based Hard 90 Baseball, and carried a price tag of $165 per player, a cost considered low when compared to other similar events. “When I moved here five years ago, I was surprised that there were not a lot of these kinds of opportunities, especially when compared to the Bay Area,” said Rick Sundberg of Hard 90. “We wanted to create a low-cost showcase in this area, an area that really needed it.” The college coaches evaluate players in the morning as they run through a series of drills, and then see them in game situations during the afternoon. Curtis said that most scouts are both looking to get additional information on players already on their radar, but also hope to find talent they did not already know about. “Hard 90 did a great job of getting the best players in the area who are not already committed to play college ball somewhere,” Curtis said. “This was one of the more well-organized showcases I have attended in a long time. The chance to see this many quality prospects in a short period of time was well worth the time.” Athletes had to apply for the chance to participate in the showcase, with a reference from a high school coach or college scout. Hard 90 then went through a refined selection process to identify the players most qualified for the event. While Granite Bay High was represented by 10 players on Sunday, and other local powers like Del Oro, Placer, Rocklin and Jesuit sent athletes to show their stuff, this was also a special opportunity for players like Oakmont’s Nick Hoffman and Junior Casas, who plays at Valley Christian, a small-school powerhouse in Roseville. Word of mouth has proven to be the best advertising for the showcase, for which this was just the second year. Players from as far away as Reno and the Bay Area also participated. “The talent I saw here was pretty similar to what I face all the time in the Bay Area,” said catcher Sean McMillan, who will be a junior at San Mateo juggernaut Serra High School. “If you’re a good player at Serra, they’ll find you, but this was my first showcase and it was a great chance to be seen.” McMillan’s father, Bob, was along for the ride, and as a baseball fan, he thoroughly enjoyed his first showcase experience. “I love watching baseball, Bob McMillan said. “There was a ton of talent out here and this is a fascinating experience kid’s have now.” Bob McMillan was particularly impressive with the attention each of the college coaches paid to the entire event. “I was right up front and noticed that each of the coaches was really giving each kid a chance to show what they could do, McMillan said. “They were even asking about grades and I think it is great to know that they are sending the message that grades matter.” According to Curtis, the talent pool at this event was as strong as at other events he attends. He says that 10 to 15 percent of the players that come to one of these showcases will have Division I talent coming out of high school, while others will receive opportunities through the junior college route and smaller schools. The Fresno State coach also seems to agree with Sundberg’s assessment that this showcase was much needed to help introduce the college coaches to the wealth of talent in the Sacramento area. “This area in general is getting a lot better as more and more kids are getting Division I and having success there,” Curtis said. “For many years, this was an under-recruited and untapped area, but that is changing.” FYI: Local players who participated in the showcase: Nick Hoffman, Oakmont Junior Casas, Valley Christian Jimmy Jack, Granite Bay Riley Drongesen, Granite Bay Jordan Weber, Granite Bay Andrew Wilson, Granite Bay Nate Esposito, Granite Bay Brock Kent, Granite Bay Josh Hall, Granite Bay Sean Sundberg, Granite Bay Braden Young, Granite Bay Jake Riffice, Granite Bay Freddie Cargile, Del Oro Mike Baker, Del Oro Ryan Xepoleas, Del Oro Jesse Lang, Del Oro Cooper Johnson, Del Oro Taylor Shores, Rocklin Kyle Garvella, Rocklin Wes Marker, Rocklin Matt Ryan, Placer Patrick Stole, Whitney Brad Gerig, Jesuit (from Roseville)