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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2001

Isle prep baseball players display talents

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i is no longer a well-kept secret in Major League Baseball's scouting circles.

Vince Souki, 17, of Maui's King Kekaulike High School, was among the 75 players invited to showcase their baseball skills at Rainbow Stadium. Evaluations will be dispersed to all 30 major-league teams.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

That was evident again yesterday, when the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau held its first-ever tryout camp in the state. About 75 of next year's top high school seniors and juniors participated in the by-invitation-only event at Rainbow Stadium.

"This is the first time the scouting bureau has had a tryout camp of any sort in Hawai'i," said Dan Dixon, who conducted the one-day camp with three other bureau representatives. "It's by far the best venue (for players) as far as participating in any showcase. I feel good that we were able to do this. We hope to do it annually or bi-annually from now on."

Players were timed in the 60-yard dash and for pitching velocity, and were put through routine fielding drills. Later, about 45 were selected to play in an intrasquad game. Most players had at least two plate appearances, and each pitcher got to face at least three batters.

St. Louis' Guy McDowell, Kaiser's Jason Peters and Kailua's Kamaile Santos each threw pitches reportedly clocked at 86 mph. Kamehameha center fielder Tyler Perkins was one of the hitting stars, going 3-for-3 with two triples and a single. Castle infielder Jordan Tom went 2-for-2.

The scouts evaluated players and marked information on individual cards, which were reviewed shortly following the camp. The information will later be dispersed to all 30 major-league teams to assist in their scouting for next year.

"The bureau holds about 35 open tryouts across the country, and seven or eight invitationals like this one," said Dixon, who scouts Southern California and all of Hawai'i. "We also have 12 open tryouts in Canada and four in Puerto Rico."

In Major League Baseball's amateur draft earlier this month, a record 15 players with Hawai'i ties were selected, including six high school players. Leading the way was Kamehameha infielder Bronson Sardinha, who was the 34th pick overall — the highest pick ever for a local high school player.

Sardinha signed a contract with the New York Yankees that included a $1 million bonus. St. Louis pitcher Brandon League was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round, the 59th pick overall. He has yet to sign.

The other local high school players selected this year were Kaua'i pitcher Mark Rodrigues (Montreal, 29th round), Mid-Pacific pitcher Ricky Bauer (Boston, 39th), Kamehameha pitcher Hubert Pruett (Milwaukee, 41st) and Moanalua outfielder Stephen Green (Kansas City, 43rd). Like League, who has a scholarship offer from Pepperdine University, the others are considering college options.

In the 2000 draft, former Punahou and Stanford pitcher Justin Wayne became Hawai'i's highest draft pick ever when he was selected by Montreal with the fifth pick overall. In 1998, Waipahu High School's Jerome Williams was selected 39th overall by the San Francisco Giants.

Dixon said Hawai'i's recent success in the draft is a result of an increase in local talent and greater exposure nationally.

"I see it getting even better in the years to come," said Dixon, who has scouted Hawai'i for the past eight years. "Obviously, there's decent coaching here."

Mililani coach Glenn Nitta, who played for Farrington in the 1960s and has coached in the high school ranks here since the mid-1970s, said the ingredients are present for more local players to take their skills to the next level.

"The kids now are bigger and stronger than before," Nitta said. "And the exposure really helps, too. I think (yesterday's camp) is good for Hawai'i."

Dixon said most teams' area scouts were busy attending Mainland tryouts/tournaments or trying to sign recent draft picks, but about eight Hawai'i-based scouts were in attendance.

"Individual teams have had tryouts here before, but I guess this gives a lot of kids a chance to show their stuff," said Eric Tokunaga, a scout for the Kansas City Royals. "Hawai'i's been putting out some pretty good players, so (scouting bureau officials) want to cover all their bases."

Two first basemen who are considered to be among Hawai'i's top prospects for next year — Iolani's Kila Ka'aihue and Moloka'i's Keahi Rawlins — did not participate. Ka'aihue is playing for an all-star team on a goodwill tour of Japan. Rawlins apparently did not make the trip to Honolulu.

Dixon said a few Neighbor Island players did make the trip.

"I want to thank them for flying over, and I want to thank (University of Hawai'i athletic director) Hugh Yoshida for letting us use the facility," Dixon said. "It made this much more special. Everything went really well; this will help us a lot."