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Immigration law change -- Latest: A Vince Perkins Update

From The Kansan: Change in immigration law will benefit foreign minor league ball players


Some teams, like the Milwaukee Brewers, don?t have teams in Latin America. So the Brewers, when faced with the cap, have had to rent out roster space from other teams there, said Gord Ash, Milwaukee?s assistant general manager.


Edit: Changed link destination from "Kansan" to "Slam! Sports"; same story, no registration. --1992casey

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Good a spot as any to add to the topic from a Canadian perspective -- had completely forgotten Vince Perkins was from British Columbia, a nugget on him below as well:


Diamonds in the Rough

GoldstreamGazette.com (British Columbia)



Five or so years ago, the idea of winter baseball or softball in Victoria would be a tough sell.


Anyone wandering in to the Oak Bay Recreation Centre?s indoor sports field Wednesday would quickly discover that the concept of indoor ball here is alive and well.


Twice a week through the fall and winter, students enrolled in the Diamond for Excellence program at Lambrick Park secondary dot the turf. Two dozen or so engage in hitting drills on one side of a floor-to-ceiling curtain, while the rest of the 60 baseball players run through fielding and pitching drills on the other. On this morning, the 40 softball playing girls in the program are outside, running on the Oak Bay secondary track. The groups switch in the afternoon.


?If you dropped this academy into the middle of Southern California, they?d be beating down the doors trying to get in,? said Brandon Newell, a Blaine, Wash.-based pro scout for the Milwaukee Brewers who comes up to help out semi-regularly. ?The kids have it unbelievably good up here.?


The combination of quality instruction and availability of facilities has thrust Victoria into a spotlight when it comes to producing college-ready players.


Not so long ago, telling someone from the pro or college baseball world that you?re a scout for Western Canada would be said under one?s breath, Newell said.


He trumpets the fact now, having added those responsibilities to the five Pacific Northwest states he looks after. ?Now, if you don?t spend time up here, you?re going to get beat.?


The idea of Victoria-area high schoolers being able to compete regularly with those in the U.S. for college or university scholarships ?was a farce? as recently as five years ago, Newell said. Now, between five and seven baseball players a year and an equal number of softball-playing girls from the academy could be considered potential candidates.


?It proves that the academy works,? he said.


Academy head coach Rocky Vitale doesn?t mind blowing the horn for the program. The academy is becoming known nationally, he said, and with the support of well-connected people like Newell, and solid summer baseball and softball programs in the community, its players are being sent to schools around North America.


?We want these kids to be able to compete with kids in the states,? he said. ?We use this time to catch up on skill work.?


A huge ingredient in the success of the program, Vitale said, is the availability of the Oak Bay facility. Nowhere else in the region can they find a dedicated space that allows them to keep the teaching going uninterrupted.


The extra time spent on fundamentals such as hitting, fielding and pitching have local players competing on a national level more than ever, Vitale added.


Newell, who has been scouting in B.C. and Victoria the past six years, enjoys helping out with academy activities and spoke enthusiastically about the effectiveness of the program and the opportunities it presents for young ball players. ?If they have the passion and they learn the skills here, I?ll find these kids a place to play.?


Western Washington University assistant women?s softball coach Among the other special guests on hand to help the teens out Wednesday was sixth-year minor league pro Vince Perkins, who was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays by the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this year.


He spoke to the youngsters Wednesday about their options and the challenges they might face in climbing the baseball ladder.


?It takes a special kind of player to step right into professional baseball out of high school,? the Saanich native said.


Midway through a year of rehabilitation after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2006, Perkins, a starting pitcher his entire career, is preparing for a move to the bullpen next spring.


Attending college can be a good stepping stone for players hoping to play professional baseball, he said, from both a developmental and emotional standpoint. ?I know for me, it would have been pretty tough to spend my first season away from home in the minors.?


Such a situation may befall Kyle Orr, a 2006 academy and Lambrick Park grad who was on hand getting some pointers Wednesday before heading south for spring training with the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Orr chose this summer to put a scholarship to the University of Kentucky on hold to pursue a pro career in the Dodgers? organization.


He hopes to be sharp by the time he dons the Dodgers? blue and white next March.


?It?s a huge advantage to come out here and work on stuff,? Orr said of the academy workouts.


It may seem like work at this point, but come next spring, this group of 100 players will be that much further ahead than they were when ball season ended last summer.

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