Legion ball players get a look at scouting camp

A trio of Hettinger baseball players put their talents on display for scouts of the highest level during a camp in Mandan a few weeks ago.

A scout from the Minnesota Twins was at the camp to get a look at the ball players. (Photo by Nolan Dix/For The Record)
A scout from the Minnesota Twins was at the camp to get a look at the ball players.
(Photo by Nolan Dix/For The Record)

By COLE BENZ
Record Editor

A trio of Hettinger baseball players put their talents on display for scouts of the highest level during a camp in Mandan a few weeks ago.

Head legion baseball coach Nolan Dix got a call from Don Hanson, an area talent scout for Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins and local affiliate of the Hoopster basketball magazine, inviting him and some of his players to the camp on Wednesday, June 22.

Hudson Pierce takes a swing in the batting cages during the scouting camp in Mandan. (Photo by Nolan Dix/For The Record)
Hudson Pierce takes a swing in the batting cages during the scouting camp in Mandan. (Photo by Nolan Dix/For The Record)

The camp has a long history of North Dakota players attending who’ve eventually made it to the major leagues, including Travis Hafner, former No. 1 overall pick Darin Erstad, and 2008 World Series Champion Chris Coste.

“All the kids that are in the major leagues for North Dakota came to this camp,” Dix said.

Hanson himself has been a part of this event for the last 50 years.

Dix, along with his son Jacob, Jarred Mattis, and Hudson Pierce woke up and hit the road bright and early at 5 a.m. to arrive on time, the camp opened at 8 a.m. CST.

Evaluators from the Twins and area colleges including University of Mary, University of Jamestown, and others, were present. A scout from the Miami Marlins organization was also scheduled to evaluate the players, but an injury prevented him from attending.

Ball players from across the state, from all different sized communities attended. Dix estimated that between 60-70 kids were in attendance.

Jacob Dix at first base at the Mandan scouting camp. (Photo by Nolan Dix/For The Record)
Jacob Dix at first base at the Mandan scouting camp. (Photo by Nolan Dix/For The Record)

He said that his players were a little nervous right away, something the players themselves admitted to. But they quickly shook their jitters away after hitting the field and throwing the ball around.

The day started out with some introductions and then went right into fielding drills. The players paired up and warmed their arms with some long-toss catch.

Following the long-toss, the players broke up according to position. Jacob Dix worked out with the first basemen, Mattis with the shortstops and Pierce grouped up with the third basemen.

After drills and skills in the field, the players hit the batting cages for some swings. Nolan said that each player got between 10-15 swings before moving on to the next guy.

Workouts finished on the mound at the end of the day. Only Mattis participated in the pitching instructions. Using a radar gun, his coach said that he hit 73 mph in front of the scouts. The fastest recorded pitch on the day was 86 mph.

Nolan said that the event was a good experience for the players, and it afforded himself some time with fellow coaches as they sat in the stands and watched their respected players perform.

“I thought it was kind of cool,” Nolan said.

After some final words by the scouts, the event finished and the players scattered.

About a week after the event, the players each received individual reports of their performances. On the reports the players saw how they performed in specific drills, and it gave them a comparison between their current level and the level of skill needed to play at the collegiate level, or higher.

Pierce, who said he would be interested in playing baseball collegiately, thought the scouts were pretty preceptive of his skill set. The scouts told him he was dropping his hands partway through his hitting drill, and when he fixed the mechanical issue Pierce told the Record that he started to drive the ball better.

“I thought it was good, I thought it was really interesting to see kind of how you matched up around the state,” Pierce said.

“It was good, it was a lot of good experience,” Jacob said. “I’ll go back next year.”

Mattis said the pitching was different, but in a good way.

“It was different, it was good different, a lot of fun,” Mattis said. “there’s a lot of good pitchers.”

Of the nearly 70 players Mattis said only about 15 participated in the pitching drills, but and he was amazed at how hard some kids can throw.

Nolan said that he and his players had a good experience, and that next year he hopes to send players back to the camp.