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The boys come to the schools at their own expense from all over the country, and even outside, full of determination and hope. Harry Bode, who was a checker in Anchorage, Alaska, came down by plane. A young Canadian traveled seven days and nights by bus to reach one of the schools, and Jim Costellas, 17, who came to America from Athens, Greece only two years ago went to night school and earned his fare to Florida by working in a doughnut establishment. Now he was hoping to be signed up. A young southpaw from the state of Washington worked in an aircraft plant last year and had a bad year pitching. He wanted to find out once and for all whether he had the stuff for the big leagues.
One of the best prospects in the Senators' school was Tony Gatch, a 19-year-old chemical worker from a Chicago suburb. His ambition to become a professional ballplayer was opposed by his father, a steelworker. His mother told him to "buckle down to it." Gatch went to Winter Garden and was the first of the young players signed by the Washington organization. He will be tried out in Class AA baseball with the Chattanooga Lookouts.
A 28-year-old tool and die maker gave up his job in a Midwest plant that paid $2.82 an hour and went to baseball school, hoping that he might be signed to play Class D ball at a salary of perhaps $125 per month.
Fuzzy Fosnaugh, a carpenter in Dayton, Ohio also went. He became the life of the Washington school but returned home without a contract. A third baseman who is a good hitter but a bad fielder belongs to the Yankees' Binghamton club. He attended Lopat's school in St. Augustine in order to get into condition and to improve his fielding and throwing. A cable operator named Bernard Henry Marchena in Cura�ao, Dutch West Indies, wants to be a ball player. He plays outfield in an amateur league at home. He flew to a baseball school in St. Augustine. A colored warehouse worker in Durham, North Carolina was at the Rossiter school at Cocoa, Fla. He would like a contract.
Some of the others are from farms and small towns. Some are from factories. Some are from high school and a few from college. And they all are chasing the rainbows that Ty Cobb, Ruth, Tris Speaker, Lefty Grove, Bob Feller and many others found. They all want to become big leaguers.
The students go through a course of conditioning, practicing and playing similar to that of professional clubs during the spring training season. The instruction they get deals with the fundamentals of the game, and it's good. Among the present and former players teaching at the schools this year were Trucks, Zack Taylor, former catcher, Chuck Stobbs of Washington, "Boom Boom" Beck and Pete Appleton, ex-pitchers, Ellis Clary, Joe Fitzgerald and Joe Haynes of the Washington coaching staff, Cal Ermer, the Chattanooga manager, Hudson and Ted Lepcio of the Red Sox, Ed Lopat, Enos Slaughter and Gus Niarhos.
ACCENT THE POSITIVE
One day Dick Wakefield showed up at the Trucks school. Watching the hitters, he spoke to some of them and demonstrated how a few were not swinging at the ball level with the ground. They were coming up from under the ball and losing their power.
At the Sarasota clinic, Heinie Manush had the boys show him how they swung. One batter was spreading his feet much too widely and because of his stance was weakening the force of his swing. Heinie tried to correct the fault which otherwise might have persisted unrecognized for years. Lopat and Trucks spoke much of conditioning and how to save one's arm. Zack Taylor spent considerable time showing a catcher how to move out from behind the batter to get a pitch-out, not so easy as it looks when done by a big leaguer. Gus Niarhos spoke of how the catcher should place himself and tag a runner coming home to score. Many young catchers move up from the plate and find themselves trapped into making a desperate lunge to tag the runner out. Even after instruction, young players often persist in these faults.
Besides instruction, the schools offer young players an opportunity to practice and to play daily. This was most welcomed by those who came from large cities where they were lucky to play two days running. A big league ballplayer has spent thousands of hours throwing and catching and hitting a ball. For every time he has swung at a pitch in a game, he has taken several cuts in practice. It is this great difference between someone who merely plays ball and a big leaguer who plays all the time that the young players are trying to bridge.