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Shields Had a Ray of Hope All Along

August 20, 2000|DAVE DESMOND

Nobody seemed to notice the clock was ticking, and nobody seemed to care.

Jamie Shields, drafted nearly two months ago by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, was hours from stepping on a plane and heading for classes at Louisiana State, becoming ineligible for the draft again until 2003.

Everyone involved seemed to know deep down the former Hart High standout was never going to get on that plane, even if it was headed to the home of the defending NCAA national champion.

Shields signed with the Devil Rays on Aug. 11, but it was not an 11th-hour reprieve.

"We were cutting it pretty close," said scout Fred Repke, who signed Shields. "But we had been in touch throughout this thing. He had always expressed to me that he wanted to play [professionally] and I took him at his word."

Shields, The Times' Valley player of the year after leading Hart to a Southern Section championship as a junior, entered his senior season projected as one of the Southland's top prospects.

But a back injury that kept him from pitching for about four months and Shields' commitment to powerhouse LSU sent him plummeting to the 16th round of the draft.

Neither side would disclose the exact amount of Shields' bonus, saying only it was comparable to third-round money.

That would likely put the deal in the $300,000 to $400,000 range.

Many of the unsigned draftees from June are embroiled in heated and sometimes tempestuous negotiations, including pitcher Matt Harrington of Palmdale High, first-round choice of the Colorado Rockies.

No such bitterness ever existed between Shields and the Devil Rays. It just seemed no one was in much of a hurry.

Shields spent the summer playing for the semi-pro Santa Barbara Forresters, who finished seventh recently at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan.

Repke drove to Santa Barbara several times to watch Shields, who was 4-1 and had regained much of the velocity lost because of the back injury.

Shields, who was throwing in the 88-90-mph range at the end of the high school season, topped out at about 93 mph this summer.

"There were no hard feelings or anything like that," Shields said of the negotiations. "It was just a long process and I'm really glad it's over."

But there still doesn't appear to be a rush.

Shields' contract is for 2001.

"I was ready to go when I signed," said Shields, who has been working out with Repke three times a week. "But there were only a few weeks left in the season."

Next month, he will report to the Devil Rays when they visit Anaheim and pitch in the bullpen in front of Manager Larry Rothschild and pitching coach Rick Williams.

From there, he will report to Instructional League in Florida.

"I could have gone to school," Shields said. "But I've always had a dream of going to the major leagues and now I have a chance to follow that dream."


This Tourist should have packed a lunch.

Dan Phillips of Chatsworth High and Cal State Northridge endured the minor leagues' longest game last Sunday, when the Asheville Tourists outlasted the Hickory Crawdads, 4-3, in 20 innings.

The Class-A South Atlantic League game lasted 5 hours, 17 minutes and set or tied several league records, including Phillips' 10 at-bats. He had two hits.

The Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League didn't play as many innings last week, but spent even more time on the field.

A run-scoring single by Cirilo Cruz, a former Lancaster JetHawk, in the bottom of the 17th gave Somerset an 8-7 victory in a game that lasted a league-record 6 hours, 14 minutes.


Gabe Kapler of Taft High and Moorpark College saw his hitting streak end at 28 games when the Texas Ranger outfielder went hitless against the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

Kapler's streak is the longest in the major leagues this season.


Outfielder Joe Borchard of Camarillo High and Stanford was promoted Thursday from the rookie-level Arizona League to Winston-Salem of the Class-A Carolina League by the Chicago White Sox.

In his first two games, he was one for seven with four strikeouts.


When John Puccinelli of Notre Dame High signed with the San Diego Padres this year, he was probably warned about the smoke thrown by professional pitchers.

No one said anything about smoke from wild fires.

Puccinelli and his Idaho Falls team had their Pioneer League game canceled last week because of smoke from the Bitterroot Mountains fire.


The Baltimore Orioles optioned Leslie Brea to triple-A Rochester last week, at least temporarily quieting controversy surrounding the former JetHawk pitcher.

The Orioles thought they had landed a talented 21-year-old earlier this month when they acquired the Dominican-born Brea in a package from the New York Mets for infielder Mike Bordick.

Team officials were stunned, however, when Brea made a startling announcement before his first start for the Orioles:

He was born in 1973, not 1978, making him five years older than previously thought and considerably less appealing as a prospect.

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