Saturday, May 26, 2007


Barring an unforeseen change in his availability, 22-year-old phenom Max Scherzer will make his fourth—and likely his last—regular season American Association start for the Fort Worth Cats Monday night, and the pack of adoring scouts won’t be the only people with their eyes focused in this top draft prospect’s direction.

Last year’s draft darling, Luke Hochevar, who touted Scherzer on the virtues of playing Independent Baseball in Fort Worth while awaiting a new draft which promises great riches, has the night off from Kansas City’s Class AA Wichita farm club to attend.

All of this came to focus for yours truly when I had the chance to visit handsome Haymarket Park in Lincoln, NE, where Scherzer and the defending champion Cats were opening up a weekend series against the pennant-minded Saltdogs Friday.

Hochevar wanted to be at LeGrave Field on Monday anyway because the Cats will be handing out 2006 championship rings, and one can only imagine he will relish the chance of seeing firsthand the man in the center ring a mere 10 days before the June 7 draft.

Hochevar was the center of all this focus 12 months ago.

And just who might the personable Scherzer, a University of Missouri product, resemble? After hesitating just a bit, Fort Worth Manager Stan Hough said Roy Oswalt. Perennial Lincoln hit artist and hitting coach Bryan Warner, who faced the fireballer earlier this season, mentioned Josh Beckett. Lincoln Manager Tim Johnson, whose credentials include leading the Toronto Bluejays, cited Steve Trachsel.

Johnson was definitive in another way: “He is one of those no doubters”. A can’t miss prospect in a baseball world filled with uncertainties.

I couldn’t resist asking Scherzer if he had pitched in Haymarket Park previously since the stadium is shared by the Saltdogs and Nebraska Cornhuskers, a Big 12 rival to his Missouri Tigers. Yes, he had pitched in the beautiful facility, one of the best in either college or Independent Baseball.

And what about facing Alex Gordon, the Huskers’ star now a highly-touted but struggling rookie third baseman for the major league Royals?

“0 for three,” was the smiling answer. Nothing else. “0 for three” said it all. No doubt from this “no doubt” prospect.

It was a fun evening, and I didn’t even get to the righthander throw any of his 98-mile per hour fastballs that soon seem certain to earn him millions.

By the way, I plan to say more about what was on Scherzer’s mind in next Thursday’s Independent Baseball Insider column.

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