Baseball Combines

Tenths of a second can mean the difference between a groundout and an infield single. Miles per hour on the fastball can be too. Major League scouts and college coaches don’t take these statistics lightly. At Blue Chip Prospects located in Bayport, they’re all about setting the stage for high school baseball players to shine when everyone’s watching, and standout performances on that stage have helped launch collegiate and professional careers for the past decade.

Ask Estee Harris, the 2003 second-round pick of the Yankees who hails from Central Islip or Commack’s Mike Belfiore, who opened eyes during his combine and earned a scholarship to Boston College. They’re just two of many who have used the Blue Chip showcases as a springboard. This year, approximately 160 players will partake in the Blue Chip showcase at Farmingdale State on August 10, just one of many such showcases the company holds in the northeast annually.

According to Director of Baseball Operations Tom Downey, upward of 60 scouts and coaches are expected to be on hand. The spotlight is a bright one.

“You’re the only person doing what you’re doing at the time,” Downey said. “It’s not like there’s a plethora of different things going on next to you. All eyes are on that player as they perform.”

There’s a tremendous amount of kids getting opportunities throughout the nation because of the success of Blue Chips

Although football combines, particularly the NFL’s, have joined the mainstream, Blue Chip’s hallmark has always revolved around the national pastime, which might be as integral to a player’s career as the gridiron version but not as publicized, even though the new MLB Network broadcast the entire draft last month. At these showcases, every move is evaluated and everything happens fast. The position players will run the 60, see 16-18 pitches to hit and work out at their position. Catchers are timed on their throws to second and on bunts. Infielders must range to their left and right to retrieve grounders, while outfielders have 8-10 fly balls to be judged on arm strength, throwing mechanics and their approach to the ball.
The stats are recorded, printed and presented to and analyzed by the all-important observers.

Blue Chip isn’t limited to showcases either; it hosts the best travel teams from the northeast and mid-Atlantic at weekend-long tournaments, such as last month’s wood bat Great American Classic at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank. In September, the 16U and 18U Northeast Elite Classics will be held on the Island as well.

This month’s must-see prospects are outfielder/pitcher Bryan Verbitsky from Island Trees, Lindenhurst first baseman Jon McGibbon and Kevin Courtney, the first baseman/pitcher from St. John the Baptist. Several others will try to make their own mark. Downey called the Class of 2010 “as talented and deep a class that’s been around here the past 10 years.” Judging by the expected turnout of talent evaluators, they’re well aware.

“Not just the top-tier kids but also the kids that weren’t at that level yet, they have the opportunity to become better players through this process,” Downey said. “There’s a tremendous amount of kids getting opportunities throughout the nation because of the success of Blue Chips.”

brett mauser

Brett Mauser has been a monthly contributor for Long Island Pulse since June 2006. In addition to freelancing for a variety of regional and national publications, he is the executive director of Hamptons Collegiate Baseball.