By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
Parker High senior Ervin Wilson looked at his odds and turned his back on hoops and hardwood.
“I gave up basketball to play baseball,” the 5-foot-5, 160-pounder said. “I wasn’t 6-foot-something so I really couldn’t play basketball. I said, ‘Maybe I’ll just use my talent for baseball.’”
On a recent Sunday, Wilson was among 20 who were at Cooper Green Baseball Park to take part in the First Pitch Baseball Camp.
The event might have seemed odd to some who were either recalling the college football contests of Saturday or the ongoing professional football that was played on Sunday. But Center Point High junior Alex Arnold didn’t consider it strange at all.
“I’ve been playing since I was about 5 years old,” the 16-year-old said. “I played football and I love baseball more. That’s my passion.”
And like the other players on the diamond, Pleasant Grove High’s Jacob Bisharat wants to keep playing. He’s a catcher for his high school team and also suits up for American Legion Post 149, saying baseball season is all year round for him.
His “pop time” – throwing from the plate to second base – impressed the scouts who were on hand. His best effort took 1.91 seconds; the major league average is 1.95.
“I have a few cousins who played in the pros,” Bisharat said. “I just at least want to make it in there and anything else just let God lead the way. I just want to make it.”
The scouts at the camp, conducted by player development coach Demetrius Mitchell and sponsored by Oxmoor’s Lonnie Malone, provided tips to participants. The scouts were also looking for players with a measure of potential.
Inverness’ Tommy Jackson, a 10-year scout for the New York Mets, said he is always looking for guys who have the tools to hit, run, field and throw, and hit for power.
“But they don’t have to be developed yet,” he said. “There’s always that diamond in the rough. The saying in scouting is, If you don’t go, you won’t know.”
Jack Powell lives in Atlanta. He’s in his 41st year overall as a scout and eighth with the Minnesota Twins. He said scouts seldom find a polished product in the high school ranks.
“It’s like baking a cake,” he said. “You want a little bit of this and you want a little bit of that, and a little bit of this.”
California native and current Inverness resident Brian Morrison is in his third year as scout with the Texas Rangers after 11 years with Tampa Bay. He made coming to Cooper Green Sunday a priority.
“I was an inner-city kid,” Morrison said. “I believe in the inner-city and I believe there are players there. Myself and the Texas Rangers, we believe in inner-city programs.
“This is here to help the kids,” he continued. “That’s what I’m here for. If I can give up one Sunday to help the kids, I might change somebody’s life.”
Ryan Caldwell played Rookie League ball in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He was at Cooper Green to provide some inspiration.
“The brothers tend to get looked over and they tend think baseball isn’t for them,” he said. “When they see another brother that’s made it, it changes their thoughts.”