On a raw, cold
night in Auburndale, Fla., this month, a 16-year-old boy, Benedict Trawinski,
started at shortstop for the Virgil Trucks Baseball School team against an
outfit from Lakeland. In the first inning, Trawinski walked and got to second
on a wild pitch. When a ball was thrown past the catcher, he went around third
and tore for home. But he began his slide too soon. He momentarily checked
himself—always a bad thing when sliding—and then abruptly he was writhing on
made a similar slide last spring and sat out most of the season on the
Milwaukee bench with a broken ankle. Trawinski was more fortunate. He got off
with a slightly sprained ankle, and he learned something in the process.
Inexperienced now, if he goes on to become a good ballplayer, he most likely
will never again hesitate on a slide.
This is finding
out the hard way, but it is the reason why Trawinski and several hundred other
aspiring young ballplayers have been in Florida this winter to attend baseball
schools. Baseball is their chance for fame and fortune. They pay their money
for the privilege of playing before the critical eyes of veteran players. They
play hard and watch and listen closely to everything that is taught them, and
some will make the majors.
When I went to
one of the schools unintroduced, some of the young aspiring players asked me if
I were a scout. Others would ask me if scouts were present or if I knew when
any scouts were going to show up at their school. I asked a young player at Sid
Hudson's school in Kissimmee what he thought of it.
"What do I
think of it? It's our future!"
And another of
Hudson's boys said during a meal:
think in five thousands the way we think of five dollars."
school is a relatively new institution. The record isn't clear but apparently
Ray Doan, promoter of the House of David teams, started the first one in
Arkansas during the 1930s. Rogers Hornsby was early associated with him. And in
1939 when Doan moved from Hot Springs, Ark., to Jackson, Miss., he advertised
Babe Ruth as a member of his faculty.
THEY RUN AWAY—TO
Jersey Joe Stripp
operated the first baseball school in Florida, and most of these institutions
have since located there. In 1937 the majors got interested when Joe Engel,
president of the Chattanooga Lookouts, established the Washington Nationals
Baseball School in Winter Garden. Jack Rossiter, a Washington scout, runs
another one of the older schools in Cocoa, and recently Trucks, Ed Lopat, Sid
Hudson and Eddie Miller have opened their own places. In short, the baseball
school appears to have become firmly established. In the future, it is likely
to grow. With minor leagues and independent teams folding up, the schools well
may become more important as a source of good prospects.