Baseball showcase celebrates 15 years

SHARE Baseball showcase celebrates 15 years

New Class 4A state champion Nick Kowalczuk is one of two Oak Park-River Forest players slated to play in the Stevenson Showcase Friday and Saturday in Lincolnshire. | Steve Johnston~Sun-Times Media.

The Stevenson Showcase isn’t designed to give future major league prospects some exposure, but there have been some success stories. Current Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis of Glenbrook North played in the Stevenson Showcase and so did former Marlins and Nationals pitcher Scott Olsen, who as a sixth round draft choice in 2002 out of Crystal Lake South. Current Twins outfield prospect Joe Benson, who played 21 major league games last season as a September call-up, even played in the Stevenson Showcase as member of Joliet Catholic.

On Friday and Saturday, the Class of 2013 will take their turn with hopes of showing off their considerable talents in front of over 100 college recruiters and nearly 20 major league scouts. Players from eight major conferences play one nine-inning game each day in a festival for future prospects. For the 15th consecutive year, the event is run by former high school coaches Harvey Foster and Larry Pohlman. Foster, a Palatine resident, was a former assistant coach at Hersey and Prospect and Pohlman was the veteran coach at Prospect until the 1990s.

The Showcase started at Hersey before it grew to its current home using the two quality fields on the Lincolnshire campus. Stevenson’s field was recently ranked No. 8 by Prep Baseball Report among the Ten Best Illinois High School Baseball Stadiums.

The Showcase, officially known as the Northwest Suburban Baseball Tournament, is the first of two showcases run by Foster. In a few weeks, another showcase at Plainfield North gives exposure to players not from the Stevenson Showcase’s eight major conferences. The best players from Stevenson and Plainfield North will be chosen to represent two different Illinois teams in the Midwest Classic July 24-29 at Plainfield South. That event features games between players from states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Foster, who will turn 70 in July, has seen only a few changes over the years to the Stevenson Showcase. A few years ago, the event shifted to Friday and Saturday to avoid Father’s Day. It started out with a winner’s and loser’s bracket before switching to its current two-game, round-robin format.

“Now everyone knows when they are going to play,” Foster said. “I listen to the coaches.”

From college recruiters, Foster learned those coaches from all levels of programs in the NCAA and NAIA want to see games. Batters are not allowed to take walks. If a pitcher throws four balls, a pinch-runner is sent out to first base and the batter completes his turn. Pitchers usually throw one inning each. There are dozens of speed guns aimed at pitchers during each game. Because most of the players are seeking to play in college, the Showcase uses BBCOR bats for the first time. This is not a wood bat showcase for future major leaguers, though pro scouts are there to look at pitchers as well.

Foster’s contact numbers for college coaches and major league scouts constantly changes. This year, there are new coaches coming in from Washington University in St. Louis and Cornell University.

Players are chosen from each conference at annual all-conference meetings by their coaches. Fosters gives the coaches three criteria: “1) Character; 2) Grades. We really look at grades for college; and 3) Can you play ball?” All rosters are available at hfosterbaseball.blogspot.com.

On the first day, each player is timed in the 60-yard dash. Before each game, warmups are different than typical games. All outfielders take fungoes from right field and are evaluated for arm strength on throws to third base. All infielders take fungoes from shortstop and make throws to first base. Catchers are tossed balls from in front of home plate and evaluated on their release and throws to second base.

Admission is free.

This year’s game schedule:

FRIDAY

10:15 a.m.: North Suburban vs. Upstate Eight

11:15 a.m.: Central Suburban vs. West Suburban

3:15 p.m.: DuPage Valley vs. East Suburban Catholic

4:15 p.m.: Fox Valley vs. Mid-Suburban

SATURDAY

10 a.m.: Mid-Suburban vs. Central Suburban

11 a.m.: East Suburban Catholic vs. North Suburban

1 p.m.: Upstate Eight vs. DuPage Valley

2 p.m.: West Suburban vs. Fox Valley

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