Futures League players get chance to strut their game to MLB scouts


WORCESTER >> For the players selected to play in the Futures League All-Star Game, it's about putting on a show for the sellout crowd at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field. But for 33 other Futures League players, it's about putting on a show for baseball scouts.

At least one scout for every Major League Baseball team was in attendance for a mid-afternoon Scouts Day. So for a number of players who weren't invited to play, it is still a chance to impress MLB front offices.

"It was pretty cool" to be on a mound with radar guns pointed at him, said Pittsfield Suns pitcher Austin Hanson, who was one of the 33 invites.

"It definitely gets the adrenaline going, seeing 10 or 20 radar guns back there," said the Pittsfield starter. "It definitely amps you up a little bit."

Many of the scouts who attended the afternoon session stayed for the game. Radar guns were out in force.

Hanson and the six Pittsfield Suns all-stars — Eric Hamilton, Colin Gimblet, Al Zachary, Thomas Hughes, Declan Cronin and Matt Cuneo — put in a pretty good afternoon of work before the game started. Hitters and fielders ran 60-yard dashes, outfielders threw, infielders took grounders and catchers caught and framed pitches. It was all before the batting practice that ended the pre-pitching portion of Scouts Day.

"I think it's pretty valuable for the fact that when the game starts, you may not see good strikes. He might get anxious because it is a game where he's trying to tune it up by swinging at a ball off the plate," said John Stewart, an area scout for the San Diego Padres. "So you never really get a chance to see him when he's at a comfort level."

Another of the 33 Scout Day selections was pitcher Gus Culpo of Martha's Vineyard. The right-hander from the University of Pittsburgh is the son of Peter and Susan Culpo, and the grandson of Madeline Cantarella Culpo, the founder of the Albany Berkshire Ballet. His uncle is Castleton men's basketball coach Paul Culpo and his cousin Mike played Division I basketball at Long Island University-Brooklyn.

"I got pretty lucky. I've been with a couple of different teams, Worcester last year and then Torrington and Martha's Vineyard this year," said Culpo, who has only pitched in 2 1/3 innings as he continues to rehabilitate from having Tommy John surgery on his pitching (right) elbow.

"This is like an awesome thing. My numbers this year are far from all-star numbers," he said. "But my coaches see enough in me to have me throw for some scouts today.

"It's a great opportunity. It's a sweet venue and everything is really cool."

Pittsfield Suns manager Tom Conley, who is in his fourth year at the helm, has been to every All-Star Game while he has managed the team — including one in Pittsfield back in 2013.

"I think the game is pretty special, because they're going to have a good crowd. Some of these teams don't get to play in front of that, not like us at Wahconah," said Conley. "This is obviously good because they get exposed to the scouts."

Conley said that he was happy that Hanson had his opportunity in front of the scouts.

"He hasn't pitched as well as he would have liked," said Conley. "I think he's getting there. I think it will be good for him to get some exposure."

For his part, Hanson said that it took him a few pitches to get dialed in, but thought overall things went well.

Seeing scouts with radar guns wasn't anything new for him.

"Every intersquad or game, we had 10 or 20 scouts there," said Hanson, who pitches for the Oklahoma Sooners. "Even in high school, I pitched in front of scouts.

"It's not that much of a change, but you're still going to get going when you see the radar guns back there."

J.P. Pyne of Worcester managed the West All-Stars. Pyne returned to the Futures League this year, after having spent a couple of years managing in Nashua.

"Halfway through this season, I can say that this is the most talented edition of the Futures League that I've ever seen," he said. "The thing that makes this really unique Is that you're going to see Division I, II and III players, and I don't think you can tell from the naked eye who's who."

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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