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Draft Day could be dream day for a few local prospects

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It's the dream of thousands of kids to one day play in the big leagues. Most of the little guys who entertain such all-American thoughts soon learn that few are called.

As the little boy gets older, most of the time his hopes change from playing in the big show to just getting the chance down in the bushes, the minor leagues. The older, more realistic and mature players soon learn that jacked-up stats don't mean as much to the scouts as physical ability and potential.

But the thrill of anticipating after a great senior year is what makes an early day in June so special.

The June free agent draft for major-league baseball will be conducted a week from tomorrow and a handful of local players may get that exhilarating phone call, "hello, this is the Baltimore Orioles (St. Louis Cardinals, whatever club) and we have selected you on the X round."

Or the word may come by telegram or mail, but the recipient usually doesn't care how it comes.

For some though, it is a big disappointment if they don't hear from a team. That is a signal to continue chasing the dream in college or to go on with their lives.

Each major-league club will be allowed 50 picks over the three-day period and those eligible are graduating high school players, junior college players, university juniors or those in four-year schools who have reached age 21, and college grads.

Also included are players previously selected by other clubs a year ago, but who don't sign with the club that first took them before this draft.

As for the county high schoolers with a shot, Severna Park's fleet-footed center fielder Steve Neuberger is among the possibilities along with middle infielders Jeff Vincent of Broadneck and Al Lee of South River.

Neuberger is considered by many of the scouts to be the best high school player with pro potential from not only the county but the metro area. The three-year Falcon starter can hit, run and field and is a superb athlete.

Headed for the University of Maryland if he doesn't take a pro opportunity, Neuberger hit a solid .491 and did not commit an error in center field in 20 games for the 17-3 Falcons.

"I think he's an outstanding high school player," said Walter Youse, the veteran Milwaukee Brewers' scouting supervisor.

Orioles scouting supervisor Jim Gilbert agrees with Youse, and these two guys are more apt to give a local guy a shot than most other scouts. These two veteran scouts know that local kids can play and they love Anne Arundel County baseball.

They know the local kids well because Youse runs the Corrigan's 20-and-under club (formerly Johnny's) in the summer, and Gilbert has run summer clubs and his Oriolelanders fall team.

Getting back to the prospects, Vincent has a chance to be picked late with the draft to run three days and 50 rounds.

The smooth-fielding Broadneck shortstop is another excellent athlete as his brilliance in three sports -- soccer, basketball and baseball -- attests. Vincent might be a good choice for some ballclub that might want to see him play a year of college ball before committing.

Vincent has a pretty good arm and range and is a good high school hitter. He also is one of those players who attracts attention from the scouts by having a knack to play his best in big games and he plays hard.

You may recall that Vincent made three stellar defensive plays at shortstop in last September's Anne Arundel County Sun-Oriolelanders All-Star Game at Joe Cannon Stadium. He took the gold glove as the game's Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

"I've seen him a couple times this spring, and I've been impressed with his ability and make-up," said Orioles' part-time scout and batting practice pitcher, Gary Kendall of Baltimore County.

Lee, another high school shortstop, has not played as much baseball as Vincent and Neuberger, but he has tools and great athletic ability. The Seahawk star is much farther ahead with his basketball skills, but might be a good project for some club.

Kevin Gibbs, an Annapolis area resident who plays second base for St. John's High in the D.C. area, is a good possibility to be selected. Gibbs was All-Metro as a junior and probably will repeat.

Three other area high school players who appeared in the Oriolelanders' Game last September with Neuberger and Vincent have a good chance to be picked in catcher/outfielder Joe Goodwin of South Carroll, Poly catcher George Freeberger and Gonzaga (D.C.) left-handed pitcher Dan Reed.

"Goodwin is an excellent high school catcher with a fine arm," said Youse, "but most scouts would pick him late because they expect him to go to college. He's a 4.0 student."

Anne Arundel Community College has a couple of athletes who have stirred interest in infielder Andy Srebroski and outfielder Jason Sigler. Srebroski is a graduate of Northeast High and was the Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year in 1990.

"Srebroski has a good chance of being drafted, that's if he doesn't sign with the Blue Jays," said Gilbert.

Srebroski was drafted late by Toronto last June and after an excellent season with the Pioneers of Coach Clayton Jacobson, it's quite likely they will sign him. The hard-nosed infielder went forward and not backward and that's what the scouts look for.

Sigler, the former Broadneck High standout, is one of those late bloomers, a young player who improves after playing college ball

following a fair senior year in high school. The scouts really like Sigler's speed.

Two high school players who might profit by playing college ball are pitchers Brian Rolocut of Arundel and Tony Saunders of Glen Burnie. They are two more hurlers who played in the September Oriolelanders' game.

There is a remote chance they could be selected near the end of the draft, but most scouts would like to see the two pitch at the next level before making a decision.

Rolo (11-1) had a great year for state semifinalist Arundel, but he's like a shot out of the blue. This was his first and last great high school season, and there is some question if at 5-foot-10, 150 pounds if he can get any better and throw any harder.

The Arundel right-hander was clocked in the low and mid-80s on the radar gun, and as a right-hander will have to run it up there faster than that to succeed in professional baseball.

With Rolo expected to attend Miami Dade C.C. in Florida, some club may tab him and follow him in the fall and spring. Miami Dade is one of those Sunshine State havens for pro prospects.

Saunders did not have the kind of year most expected him to have, but he has great tools as a 6-foot-1, 175-pound left-hander. He has been clocked in the mid- and upper-80s and that is fast enough for a southpaw. Left-handers are hard to come by and Saunders just might get a chance.

The Glen Burnie lefty currently is trying to make Youse's Corrigan's Club, which is tough to do because it boasts mostly college players.

Getting drafted is even tougher and the thrill or disappointment for several local athletes is only a week away.

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