YOKOSUKA, Japan — The drizzle fell consistently for three hours in Yokosuka, but there as no rain delay for the second annual pro scouting camp held at Kinnick on Sunday.
Former big league pitcher Keiichi Yabu headlined the event as the camp’s pitching coach while scouts from the San Francisco Giants, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon (Japan) Professional Baseball led 17 DODDS players through routine pitching, hitting and fielding drills.
“It’s a real surprise, the size and the athleticism of some of these kids and I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting to see that,” said David Cox, Giants director of scouting in the Pacific Rim. “We all know these guys are going to grow into these bodies and some will get to Yabu’s size,” pointing to the 6-foot, 215 pound one-time NPB Rookie of the Year. “And that’s where our part of the job comes in. That’s why we drilled their athleticism and tested their tools; so we can try to project what they might become as players and learn who to keep an eye on.”
Cox was quick to point out that there wasn’t necessarily a prospect out today and that wasn’t the reason why they came out. Though the scouts jotted notes from their evaluations, some posting impressive numbers like Kinnick’s Daniel Ross’ fastball topping out at 87-mph and a pair of players running 6.6 60-yard dashes, the intent of the camp was really to help boost awareness of the DODDS Japan baseball programs and giving the players some higher-level coaching.
For Yabu, this was his second time participating in the camp. Last year, he only had the chance to work with Kinnick players and liked the improvement he saw from the players he coached. This year, he taught the players the importance of balance on the mound and how proper mechanics can allow a player to play a longer, healthier career. Yabu is proof of that after accumulating 11 years of big league service in Japan, the US and Mexico.
Like Cox, what impressed him more this time around was the size and raw athleticism from the base school players, especially the athletes from Zama.
“The American kids here don’t have the fundamentals down as well as their Japanese competition, but when we get a chance to teach them the basics, they have a lot of potential and it’s exciting to me,” said Yabu through a scout acting as an interpreter. “The players from Zama were very surprising. They are very athletic, fast and big even though they don’t workout a lot. It’s very surprising and it gives them a lot of possibilities.”
Camps like this help to unlocking those possibilities for the players, said Chad Stark, Kinnick’s coach.
“It’s such a great thing for these guys to have the pros out here,” said Stark. “You can see them hustling a little more than they usually do, their confidence is up, it’s just great day to be out here today.”
Next year, Stark hopes to bring out more players, especially from the local international schools and maybe try to convince a few players from Iwakuni’s upstart baseball team at Matthew C. Perry,
“As long as I’m here, we’re going to be hosting these scouting camps,” said Stark. “It helps the players get better and that helps DODDS baseball get better.”