Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's Your Turn?

On March 5, the Detroit Tigers club is holding its annual open tryouts during Spring camp. The details about this year's camp were published by Detroit Tigers beat writer Jason Beck:

"All players ages 18-23 are invited to attend, as are players with previous pro experience. No pre-registration is required.The camp annually draws undrafted college players as well as veteran players looking for one more shot. The Tigers have signed players out of the camp to minor-league contracts in past years.

Registration for the camp begins at Tigertown at 8 a.m. ET, with the workout starting an hour later. Players need to bring their own glove and workout equipment, but the Tigers will provide wooden bats, helmets and baseballs."

This tryout has always intrigued me. Why do this? I think we all know that they're not going to find a number one starter at this event. But really now, who HAS been signed at open tryouts? I tweeted Jason Beck to see if he could think of anyone off the top of his head. He replied as follows:

"They've signed a player or two to minor-league deals once in a while for depth. But I don't remember any getting to majors."


"For media, it's more of a human interest story or to see if any former big leaguers show."

Also, Tigers blogger Matt Wallace (@MattinToledo) had this to say:

"I think the Mud Hens' closer from 2008, Blaine Neal, did just that. I seem to remember he was a special case, though."

One year, I read the account of a guy who went to open tryouts and blogged his experience. Very interesting, and I apologize that I don't remember his name. I am sure a lot of people do it just to take it all in, which would be amazing, don't you think? I may try to develop a knuckle ball, just so I can give it a go.

So, I researched Blaine Neal just to see how the whole thing went down.

According to Wikipedia:

"Neal signed with the Detroit Tigers for the 2008 season and pitched for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. Working as the team's closer, he went 1-0 with a 1.21 ERA and 26 saves. Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish gave Neal a vote of confidence: "To me, he has enough stuff to get back to the major leagues.

On July 16, 2008, Neal was named to the United States national baseball team for the 2008 Summer Olympics. He became a free agent at the end of the 2008 season and signed a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies on December 17, 2008. Neal was released by the Phillies at the end of spring training. On May 11, 2009 Neal signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians and joined the Triple-A Columbus Clippers."

The always wonderful Baseball Reference tells us Neal was drafted by the Marlins in 1996. He debuted with the Marlins in September 2001, and also spent time with the Padres, Rockies and Red Sox. His last game in the Majors came in 2005. Over that time, he featured a 5.08 ERA, pitched a total of 124 innings, sported a 1.71 WHIP, stuck out 6.8 per nine, and players batted .319 against him.

So Neal was a former major leaguer looking to make a mark in an open tryout, get a minor league deal, and work his way back to the bigs. It came pretty close to happening, too. It would have been "The Rookie" all over again. Warm fuzzy human interest story.

Wikipedia also stated that Neal currently plays for the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League. However, Neal is not listed on the Riversharks 2011 roster posted on the team website. Clearly, the man loves ball, and I can relate. I hope he gets the chance to keep playing somewhere. I wouldn't be able to let go either. says he is currently a free agent.

Compelling stuff. So yeah, I'll follow the open tryouts. Maybe Jason Beck will grace us with a few tweets from the day. Let me know if you'll be among those taking the field, or please relate your story if you've ever attended a team's open tryouts.

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