Thursday, December 29, 2005

Slidin' Home


This week I've been in Tampa for the AAU Winter Nationals. The weather has been simply phenomenal-- 70 degrees, low humidity, and crystal clear skies. Makes it really difficult to do my job. But when I do bring myself around to focusing on the players at hand, I've mainly been jumping between fields at Hillsborough High School, Florida College, and University of South Florida. Those are where the L1 and L2 divisions for high school are playing.

Of course, if all I had to do was hang out in Tampa for the week to watch prospects, my life would be simple. But that would be too easy. Instead, each of the last three evenings I've made my way through the parking lot known as Interstate 4 to Orlando. That's where I hook-up with the sports psychologist for our club, Dr. Julian Rakes. Come to find out that he's actually in Orlando teaching several classes at an annual sports psychologist conference. At first I thought he was attending to learn the latest shrink techniques, but I guess he's so far above the rest that he's teaching them instead. Pretty impressive. That's my Doc.

Over the last three evenings I've picked him up from his hotel and we've driven all over Orlando interviewing roughly two prospects each evening. Most of which should go in the top ten rounds of the draft and will likely be playing this summer for a minor league team (provided they sign).

I cannot overstate the value of a solid psychological profile. Gone are the days where the top draft pick gets a $100,000 signing bonus (ala Rick Monday). Today, seven figure bonuses are the norm in the first round. I absolutely need to do my due diligence. Especially when the makeup is suspect or at least questionable. I cannot risk having a head-case wash out in the first year after a nice fat bonus.

That brings me to Dallas Parker, starting pitcher for Wekiva Community College, whom we met this evening at his trailer somewhere out in the sticks of north Orlando. Incidentally, he shared with me this picture of him making Christmas cookies for his daughter. Poor guy didn't even have a rolling pin. Apparently he promised the kid next door a half-dozen cookies if he could borrow a wood bat to roll out the dough. I can certainly testify that it indeed worked as Dallas offered me and the Doc some left over cookies that made it past Santa. They were the best I've had in years. If baseball didn't work out for Dallas, I'm sure he could find a job baking. Dallas spent a good fifteen minutes talking about the recipe, how to make the icing, and certain decorating tips.

Everything was going well until Dr. Rakes interrupted with a premeditated question that set Dallas ablaze.

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