The players from the Baltimore Redbirds aren't professionals — yet. But the team is made up of a number of potential play-for-pay prospects. That's the point for the Redbirds and the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League.
The l0-team, Mid-Atlantic League is designed to give additional playing time to high-level amateurs.
Baltimore's roster features several Calvert Hall graduates — shortstop Patrick Blair (Wake Forest University), second baseman Pat Fitzgerald (Towson University) and outfielder Alex Pastorius (College of Charleston).
Another Calvert Hall alum, outfielder Matt Bosse (University of Maryland), played for a few weeks before needing elbow surgery.
St. Paul's graduate and outfielder Jack Carey (Wake Forest) will join the team for the final three weeks.
"Mentally and physically, they are preparing for the next level," said Redbirds coach Frank Velleggia, whose team plays its home games at Calvert Hall's Carlo Crispino Stadium. "In order to prepare for the professional ranks, most of them don't play the number of games or get the number of at-bats that most professionals get in the minors. But here they are playing every day."
Velleggia said up to six professional scouts have already watched the Redbirds play.
That's why the team and the league wants to create a professional experience, right down to old-school wood bats instead of aluminum bats used in college.
"The professional scouts want to see what they can do with the wooden bats," Velleggia said. "When they come to the games, they get a true look at the players."
The Redbirds' highest profile player is Blair, a 20th-round pick in the Major League Baseball draft last month by the Houston Astros.
Blair started the past three years for Wake Forest and batted .292 with 22 stolen bases and 31 RBIs in 57 games as a junior for the Demon Deacons in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Blair said he is leaning toward returning for his senior season.
"I think that is the plan at this point," Blair said. "I have to decide by July 12 or 13. My parents and I think going back to school would be beneficial for me."
Velleggia loves having Blair's .290 batting average to bolster the lineup.
"He is a well-rounded player and has very good athleticism," the coach said. "He is very versatile and can play the infield or the outfield. He has a good arm and good baseball instincts."
Blair and Fitzgerald make an excellent double-play combination.
The chemistry between the two is tough to duplicate, even though they last played together in 2009.
"Pat I and I have been playing together on-and-off since we were 5 years old," Blair said. "It's definitely a huge advantage."
Pastorius boosts the Redbirds' lineup as well, hitting a team-high .440. He also plays solid defense, manning both center and right fields.
"He is a high school player in a college league," Velleggia said of the 2012 Calvert Hall graduate. "His strength is his demeanor. He never gets too high or two low. He keeps things on an even keel."
Like the former Calvert Hall players, Carey, a Cockyesville, resident, should help the Redbirds when he joins the team after taking a summer course at Wake Forest.
"I am sure he will have an instant impact," Blair said. "He is a great hitter and has made some huge strides."
Blair said he and his Redbirds' teammates are hitting their stride toward their goal of playing professionally.
"You can get to the field early and work with the coaches," he explained. "Take ground balls and extra swings. The league is helping us a lot."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun