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Players must pay to play at this year’s RailCats tryout

Updated: June 2, 2013 6:38AM



The proliferation of various tryout camps has tended to spread potential participants, suppressing numbers at a given site.

The fact that the RailCats are charging a fee for the first time could also impact the turnout for Thursday’s session at the Steel Yard, with registration beginning at 9:30 a.m. for position players and 11:30 for pitchers. The tryout costs $50, which must be paid in cash at the stadium, according to a team news release.

Such a fee could serve as a deterrent, with only serious players willing to shell out the money.

“It’s one of those things where there are some costs associated with the tryout — administrative costs, insurance and liability,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said.

“Quite honestly, not to squelch any dreams, but the talent level may not have been what we’re used to the last couple years, and you don’t want the tryout camp to be a fantasy camp, and we got the sense that was happening. Players are providing a service to us, no doubt about it, it’s a benefit to the club. However, if players are just coming out for a day at the park — and I’m not saying this about anyone in particular — if they’re motivated just to enjoy the day, that’s not what we want. I don’t want to sound rude, but we’re probably not looking for players that have to get off from work to come out to a tryout camp; we’re looking for players that this is their career. Nearly every other club has taken this course of charging. It’s a sign of the times.”

Other teams that already have held their respective tryouts this season have averaged 30-something players, Tagert said. The RailCats have had as many as 75 participants in the ninth-year manager’s tenure, with about 55 last season.

Regardless of turnout, the odds are heavily against a player making the RailCats from their tryout.

Only two players, pitcher Dan Soria in 2003 and outfielder Mike Coles in 2006, have signed with the team out of its tryout and made the Opening Day roster. East Chicago Central graduate Soria, under then-manager Garry Templeton, spent the ’03 and ’04 seasons with the RailCats. Hammond and Purdue product Coles was a key reserve in ’06 as a rookie, and has gone on to a productive professional career.

A handful of other players have appeared in games with the RailCats after having made his first appearance at the tryout, including pitcher Kyle Wilson (2012), pitcher Justin Roelle (’12), pitcher T.J. Wohlever (2011); pitcher Andy Weeks (2010), a LaPorte graduate; outfielder Zach Rodeghero (2010), a Valparaiso University grad; and pitcher Chris Pfalzgraf (2009).

Going into spring training, the RailCats had the maximum 28 players under contract, with the roster having to be trimmed to 22 for the start of the season. Players from the tryout could be invited back for an intrasquad game on Monday and/or an exhibition on May 10.

“I don’t want to temper anyone’s enthusiasm about the tryout, because it’s an opportunity, an event for a player to showcase his skills,” Tagert said. “The players are picking and choosing, they’re looking at the Internet, evaluating the situation, and they all are asking the same question— is there a spot? If you’re Mike Coles or Dan Soria, we’ll find a spot.”

For the fourth straight year, Tagert held a two-day tryout camp in March in Tennessee (with a couple of players receiving invitations for another look on Thursday). For the first time, he managed in a winter league in February in Texas.

“We continue to look at every resource,” Tagert said. “Clubs are signing players virtually throughout the year, so it’s tougher and tougher for players to make it through a tryout camp before the season. But you never know. It’s never certain that there’s not a spot for you. If you can compete at this level, if you can help the RailCats win games, we’ll find a spot for you.”



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