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Milisitz takes his show on the road, hoping it leads to the majors

THE BALTIMORE SUN

If you have ever wondered what it takes to become a pro baseball player, you need only follow John Milisitz around for a couple days.

Milisitz, who will be a senior this fall at Severna Park High, has his sights on a pro baseball career after graduation and he knows the sacrifice it takes.

Forget the impressive numbers that earned him All-County First Team Designated Hitter by the Anne Arundel County Sun and All-Metro second team catcher. They don't mean as much as what's inside a young player and what physical attributes he has.

Milisitz led county public school players in hitting this spring with a robust .508 batting clip including four dingers, six doubles, a triple, 19 runs scored and 20 RBI.

Few county base runners dared to pilfer a sack when Milisitz was behind the plate. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound catcher has a gun for an arm and those who venture off on the base paths are usually shot down by a wide margin.

Just as important, he was one of the inspirational leaders on Coach Jim Pitt's outstanding Falcons team, possibly the best in school history.

After the disappointment of the upset loss to fourth-seeded Broadneck, 5-4, in the Class 4A Region IV playoffs, Milisitz, the catalyst for the top-seeded Falcons, has pressed on. It's a quality he learned a couple years ago.

"John lost his dad a couple years ago while the family was living in Florida," said Charlie Becker, head coach of the front-running Severna Park American Legion Post No. 175 club on which Milisitz plays.

"He has had to fend for himself since his dad died and has become an extremely hard worker since moving to Severna Park with his mom. We've seen him get better every day as a player and with his personality. He's a great kid."

There are not many teen-agers willing to drive from Severna Park to a baseball camp in Emmitsburg, back home to play a night game and back to Emmitsburg the next day to play in an exhibition game. And yes, jump in the car and head back to

Anne Arundel County for another game that night, as Milisitz did last week.

That's not the regular schedule for Milisitz, but it's an indication of his desire to play as much baseball as he can. The feisty, blond-haired catcher is literally going the extra mile and is getting rave reviews from his summer team coach and pro scouts.

"I love his work habits and willingness to improve," says Baltimore Orioles scout Tom Gilbert.

"He's a really hard worker and wants to do whatever it takes to become a better player."

Gilbert and his father, Jim Gilbert, the Orioles' Mid-Atlantic scouting supervisor, are in Emmitsburg at Mount St. Mary's College directing the Cal Ripken Baseball School. The camp opened last week and runs in one-week segments over three successive weeks.

The opening week of the Ripken School, named after and set up by the Orioles' veteran third base coach, Cal Ripken Sr., is "Prospect Week."

"Pro and college scouts visit the school this particular week, so it's an excellent chance for some exposure for these kids," says Jim Gilbert.

Tom Gilbert, who runs the Oriolelanders' fall team that will play at Joe Cannon Stadium in early September at the 13th Annual Anne Arundel County Sun-Oriolelanders against Anne Arundel County's top players, expects Milisitz to be the catcher on his team.

"John came out last year, but we didn't have room for him because we had two senior catchers who we ended up drafting, but he will be on the team this fall," Tom said.

Milisitz lost out to a pair of outstanding catchers in Joe Goodwin of South Carroll High in Carroll County and George Freeberger of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Both were selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the late rounds of the June Free Agent Draft.

Freeberger, who was named the All-Maryland Scholastic Association catcher, is playing with the Orioles' rookie team in Bluefield.

Goodwin is a gifted individual who has the ability to not only catch but also pitch and play the outfield. An excellent hitter, he rewrote the record book at South Carroll and was named a first-team outfielder on this year's All-Metro Team.

Blessed with a pro arm, Goodwin has not signed and is still weighing a full scholarship to George Mason University against a pro opportunity with the hometown team.

The same good things may very well come the way of Milisitz. This is a kid totally dedicated to making it, and he possesses the kind of arm strength Freeberger and Goodwin have which made them pro prospects.

That rifle arm of Milisitz was on display in Emmitsburg this week, and those who saw it were more than impressed.

"I like him a lot, he can really throw," said Harry Lentz, head baseball coach at Northeast and one of several Orioles associate scouts on hand at Emmitsburg.

Equally impressed was Anne Arundel Community College head coach Clayton Jacobson, another associate scout.

Wanting to be seen by those Oriole scouts and college scouts on hand at the Ripken School, and also to get a few tips from the Gilberts, Milisitz drove back and forth from Severna Park to Emmitsburg each day last week.

It was Ripken School by day and Severna Park American Legion Post No. 175 by night for the determined Milisitz. When an exhibition game with the Little Orioles youth team was rained out on Wednesday evening at Mount St. Mary's, Milisitz jumped back in his car and headed back to Anne Arundel County.

Milisitz could have spent the night in the dorms at Mount St. Mary's with most of the other campers, but if there's a chance of a game somewhere, he wants to be there.

"I'm going back for our game with Ferndale Post [No. 289] tonight," said Milisitz. "I should get back just in time for the game. My coaches told me I could have off tonight, but since we're not playing here, maybe I can get in a game down there and get back tomorrow for another one here."

"He says he wasn't hitting the ball well and came up here for some extra instruction," Gilbert said. "I think we got him straightened out and he went back and is hitting the ball with authority again."

It's interesting that Tom Gilbert was a baseball and football star at Mount St. Joseph High in Baltimore and just a couple years ago was inducted into the Gaels' prestigious Sports Hall of Fame.

Milisitz has played the same two sports at Severna Park with similar success. Last fall, Milisitz, who had never kicked before, was Anne Arundel County Sun Second Team All-County kicker after booting 32 extra points and four field goals.

And, we might add, that he has not forgotten his college testing. His most recent shot at the SAT produced a whopping 1160.

To say that John Milisitz is a young man with a lot going for him is an understatement. You have to like his chances to become a pro catcher one day. He's willing to do whatever it takes and more.

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