Baseball will draft more than 1,000 players this June. More than half, however, will be chosen from among the college ranks.
Faced with those imposing odds, the preferred route for a high school player is through the college ranks.
That's how Bishop Egan's Jim Hvizda and Bob Zupcic were drafted. Hvizda was selected by the Texas Rangers out of Old Dominion. Last season, he won the Rolaids Relief Award at Gastonia (Class A).
Zupcic was drafted by the Boston Red Sox out of Oral Roberts and he played at Pawtucket (Class AAA) last season.
Bristol's Jeff Manto was another college draftee. Selected by the California Angels while at Temple, Manto was traded to the Cleveland Indians' organization after last season, went to spring training on their 40-man roster and was a victim of the lockout.
"My recommendation to kids has always been that they should go to college for at least two years and try to get drafted there," said Bob Rabberman, who manages Newtown (American Legion). "If the kid does not have academic capabilitites, then his only hope is the draft or a junior college."
As with all of Pennsylvania, Bucks County has some disadvantages when it comes to producing major-league talent.
The biggest cited by major-league scouts is the limited schedule teams play in the Northeast corridor. While players in Pennsylvania average 20 to40 games (high school and Legion) a year because of weather restrictions, players in Texas, Florida and California play 60 to 100 games a year.
Though major-league scouts do not look favorably upon Pennsylvania for high school prospects, some seniors will get partial scholarships or financial aid to attend college.
Of the 15 players The Inquirer tabbed as potential major-college prospects last season, only four made it to Division I schools, headed by Pennsbury shortstop Andy Szarko, who accepted a partial scholarship to the University of Richmond. The others were:
* Erik Wolfson (Neshaminy), an outfielder for Rider.
* Jim Schlotter (Council Rock), a righthanded pitcher also attending Rider.
* Chuck Coleman (Bishop Egan), a righthanded pitcher for Pace University.
Bristol's Jose Rosado - the area's top major-league draft prospect last season - returned to his native Puerto Rico and signed a free-agent contract in January with Cleveland. A righthanded pitcher-first baseman, Rosado is at spring training with the Indians' rookie club, Burlington.
And this season's prospects? The consensus among area coaches and American Legion managers is that while the senior class is poor, there is a strong crop of underclassmen.
Among the juniors to watch this spring are pitchers Gary Forrester and Dustin DeFazio at Pennsbury and Dan Kusters at Archbishop Wood. Forrester can
throw the ball 75 m.p.h. He allowed just 13 earned runs in 37 1/3 innings last season, recording a 5-1 record and 2.44 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is excellent (38 to 10).
DeFazio missed last season because of a knee injury but can throw in the mid-70s. Kusters was 7-2 but might be moving to first base.
Three sophomores with strong potential are Dean Tomlinson and Steve Tanaglia at Neshaminy and Joe Doto at Pennsbury. Tomlinson was a catcher- outfielder on Middletown's 1989 state-champion Babe Ruth American Legion club last summer (age 13-15). Tanaglia is a righthanded pitcher with major- league potential. Doto is shortstop with a strong arm.
Following, in alphabetical order, are the senior prospects from the area. All satisfy the NCAA requirements of Prop 48 (2.0 grade-point average and 700 on the SAT) for a Division I scholarship.
KYLE BILLINGSLEY. Council Rock. 6-0, outfielder-first baseman . . . lefthanded hitter with average speed . . . batted .368 for Newtown in American Legion play . . . heady player on the field . . . small for first base but knows the position . . . weak arm in the outfield . . . was defensive back on Council Rock team that won Suburban One Patriot Division last fall . . . excels in baseball over football . . . relocated here from Southern California two years ago and wants to return . . . being recruited heavily by Cal-Fullerton.
JOE MCEWING. Bishop Egan. 5-11 righthanded outfielder . . . batted .485 and led team in doubles (15) and triples (5) . . . only 1 error in centerfield . . . good throwing arm, good speed . . . might be moved to second or shortstop . . . batted .513 with Bristol in American Legion play . . . led Legion club in runs scored (20), hits (39), singles (33), RBI (16), stolen bases (7) and fewest errors (1) . . . in brief Legion playoff performance, had 4 hits, 3 runs scored, batted .444 . . . left Legion playoffs for basketball camp, where he broke his ankle in late summer . . . recovered fully from injury and had strong basketball season . . . team leader . . . has better future in baseball according to scouts . . . has not met SAT requirements, school officials say, but satisfies grade-point average . . . being recruited by Seton Hall and James Madison . . . Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers have shown interest in drafting him.
ERIK FUTCHKO. Council Rock. 6-3, righthanded pitcher . . . consensus choice as the best pitching prospect in Bucks County . . . has been the ace of Newtown Legion staff since he was 16 . . . Phillies scout Jack Anderson said in 1988 that Futchko "has what you can't teach - a strong arm." . . . excellent fastball with good location . . . can throw mid-to-upper 80s . . . can throw fastball at different speeds and work the plate . . . developing a slider . . . 8-2 last season . . . averaged 9 strikeouts a game and has career average of 1 strikeout per inning . . . despite superior physical tools, he is a candidate for junior college because of academic deficiencies . . . "How Erik does academically between now and the end of the school year will greatly affect whether he goes to college," said Dave Yates, assistant principal . . . Legion scouts and Council Rock coach Pete Lucente say he's draft material.
SCOTT HAWS. Bishop Egan. 5-11, catcher . . . lefthanded hitter and catcher . . . had outstanding season with Falls Legion club last summer, batting .408 - 100 points higher than anyone else on club . . . surprising speed for a catcher (6.9 in the 60) . . . led Falls in triples with 8 . . . strong, accurate throwing arm . . . pitchout throw to first base is 1.9 seconds (major-league prospects are in 1.5-2.0 range) . . . threw out 7 of first 9 runners last season . . . Legion clubs declined to run on Haws after that start, Falls manager Jack Hibbs said . . . lifetime, has thrown out 85 percent of runners . . . quarterbacked 1-9 Egan football team last fall . . . being recruited by Rider, Clemson and James Madison . . . small size for toughest infield position makes him a suspect draft prospect, although Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros have shown interest.
LONNIE WRIGHT. Council Rock. 6-1, outfielder . . . lefthanded rightfielder . . . better-than-average throwing arm . . . runs 4.7 in the 40 . . . batted .380 as cleanup hitter . . . line-drive hitter with little power . . . great attitude . . . 9 stolen bases . . . undecided on college, probably small Division I.