ELM GROVE - Like any dad, Ken Richard Sr. just wants what's best for his son - good health, happiness, a solid education, etc.
He'd also like to see Ken Jr. carry on his baseball career farther than his own.
''We both have a mutual respect for baseball,'' Ken Sr. said. ''We went this far. We want to keep this going past high school.''
Ken Richard Jr. takes part in the Beast of the East’s annual Players Showcase on Wednesday at Patterson Field.
Photo by Jim Elliott
The Richards, in town with the 19U Long Island Mariners for this weekend's 24th annual Edgar Martin Beast of the East Classic, arrived a day early so Junior could participate in the Paramount Scouting Bureau and National Scouting Report's annual Player Showcase on Wednesday at Patterson Field in Elm Grove.
''I couldn't see driving this far and not coming a day early and doing this,'' said Ken Sr., who is in town from Levittown, N.Y.
They had heard good things about Ron Vrana's pre-Beast of the East showcases and felt this would be a good gauge on where Ken Jr. is.
Junior had recently participated in a Blue Chips Prospects program in New York and got relatively high marks.
''I was curious to see where I am according to (Vrana's groups) standards,'' said Ken Jr., a rising senior middle infielder who is hoping to catch some eyes from a few more college coaches.
Officials running the showcase are looking for speed, pop-up times glove-to-glove and arm strength - things that are easily measured. And they're looking for intangibles - footwork, transfer, balance, body control, soft hands, accuracy, mechanics, movement, and command.
''It's a good experience,'' Ken Jr., said. ''It's a chance to get exposure and be around a lot of good players.''
He wasn't alone among those trying to show their wares Wednesday.
Justin Dilla, a 17-year-old catcher from South Park, Pa., was back after competing in last year's showcase. He said it helped get his name out there and has had a few colleges talk to him. With the help of a revamped coaching staff in high school, he's improved across the board and couldn't wait to compare his results from a year ago.
Justin Teague, a 16-year-old from Syracuse, N.Y., who will play in the Beast with the CNY Thunder, showed some arm strength on throws to second base from his catching position while participating in his first showcase of any kind.
''I heard good things about it,'' Teague said. ''They give you good results; they critique you well.''
The reason Vrana's group is so trusted goes beyond stop watches and radar guns. He relies on a team of veteran baseball guys with veteran baseball eyes - among those in attendance Wednesday were former Pittsburgh Pirate Sid Bream and Gary Staab, an amateur baseball coach in his 52nd year in the game.
His group is known not to overblow anything, which is why Beast of the East Tournament co-directors Bo McConnaughy and B.A. Crawford have welcomed Vrana for the last dozen or more years.
It's been a great match from the start.
''We wanted to entice (teams) to come to the tournament and this is one of the ways we did it,'' McConnaughy said. ''Ron, because of his scouting service, we thought it would be a great combination for us and for him. It's worked out pretty well for the both of us.''
Action of the the 156-team tournament, now in its 24th playing, begins at 8 a.m. today on area baseball fields across the Ohio Valley.