Traveling teams add to exposure
Have bat, will travel.
That is the mantra of at least two Janesville high school athletes this summer.
Jameson Henning and Kyle Johnson have spent their summer vacation playing baseball. They bypassed American Legion ball to play for traveling teams based out of Racine and Waunakee.
Both players have a goal of playing baseball in college, and playing with older players—including college players—attract the attention of scouts.
“This gives you a lot more exposure to college scouts than the Legion does,” said Johnson, who will be a junior at Janesville Parker this fall. “Plus, you’re facing a lot older players.”
Johnson, 16, played with the Racine Kiwanis and the Waunakee Ravens. The Kiwanis play in the Land O’Lakes League, where Johnson pitched 14 innings with a 3.21 ERA, and in the Langsdorf League, where Johnson pitched 10 2/3
innings with an ERA of 3.38.
Both leagues use wooden bats, which give college and pro scouts a better indication of how good players are. Aluminum bats, which high school and college teams use, give hitters an advantage since balls come off metal bats faster than they do for wood bats.
Henning, who will be a junior at Janesville Craig, plays at a slightly higher level with the Racine Hitters, who play the majority of their games in tournaments.
“We play in showcase tournaments,” said Henning. “Then we do a lot of stuff during the winter like lifting.”
Henning, a 6-1, 170-pound backup middle infielder, played on a Hitters team that participated in summer tournaments at Virginia Tech, the University of Arkansas, Missouri State, Wichita, Kansas, Illinois, Texas Christians and in Orlando.
Johnson and the Kiwanis also participated in the Orlando tournaments, which attract a horde of college and pro scouts.
In 30 games, Henning had 54 at-bats with 11 hits, including two doubles and a homer. He scored 12 runs and walked six times.
Players are invited to try out for the Hitters. If accepted, they pay a yearly fee, which is used to finance trips. Players took vans to most of the tournaments, but flew to Orlando and Dallas.
Henning and Johnson were among the youngest players on their teams.
“Me and one of my other friends were the youngest at 16,” Johnson said. “Actually, we had one of the youngest teams in the league. We had seven high school players.
“It was a little intimidating, but when you’re playing, it’s just like a regular games. You just do your own thing.”
Johnson also plays for the Waunakee Ravens, a team made up with all high school players, who play in area tournaments.
Henning enjoyed his first year with the Hitters.
“I think I did pretty well,” he said. “I swung the bat well.”
Most Hitters players gain college scholarships, including Trevor Foss, a 2008 Craig graduate who played for the Hitters and is now at the University of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (see related story).
“This definitely will be an important year,” Henning said of the 2010 season. “I’ve actually talked with a couple of college coaches already.”