Originally Published: April 27, 2003 10:30 a.m.
PRESCOTT – So far, things look outstanding for the Yavapai Roughriders and their 2004 recruiting class.
That's now, though. The perspective may change by June.
YC head coach Sky Smeltzer officially released his band of new recruits that will report to campus Aug. 24 to prepare for the 2004 collegiate spring season.
The talent pool is plenty deep among the pitching recruits. But, as life in junior college ball knows only too well, once Major League Baseball's Amateur Draft draws its names in early June, the trickle-down effect has a way of picking JUCO talent clean.
If the big league organizations aren't offering players enough money to bypass JUCO ball altogether, the four-year universities come calling with lucrative offers once their players go the way of the draft, leaving junior college programs, like Yavapai, scrambling to replace lost prospects.
And leave coaches like Smeltzer, who have put the finishing touches on their rosters, crossing their fingers until then.
"If we can keep this group of pitchers, it's over," he said of his 2004 prized pitching recruits. "But we know how that goes."
There's no doubt that YC prospects Ryan Basco and Troy Butler will hear their names called in June. How high in the draft, though, is what they – and Smeltzer – will be most anxious to await.
Basco, a right-hander out of Mid Pacific High School in Hawaii, brings an overpowering fastball clocked at 92-93 m.p.h. to the table.
Smeltzer found what he calls "the best pitcher in the state of Hawaii," working out with Team Hawaii at the Peoria Sports Complex and signed the papers soon after.
All Roughrider eyes on draft day will be on Basco, though, and on Butler.
Butler, out of Page High School, has also signed to play at Arizona State University, but has expressed his interest in grooming his game at the JUCO level before leaping to a four-year school.
With a fastball hovering in the low 90s and a great breaking ball to boot, Butler, whom Smeltzer has been scouting since Butler's sophomore high school season, is a sure-fire draftee come June.
Both touted pitchers may go the way of the draft or four-year school. Then again, if they are to realize YC's hopes, they could comprise a major 1-2 punch for the Yavapai staff next spring.
Four more right-handers make up the new class.
Rolando Diaz arrives at YC from Tucson's Sahuaro High School. At 6'4", 225 pounds, Diaz has the size to grow into a 90-m.p.h. arm, already touching 88 on the gun with command of the strike zone.
Incoming freshman Brighton Early is distinctive as much for his name as for his youth, given that he only just turned 17. But the La Quinta, Calif., native has a live arm with a fastball that can hit 90 and a breaking ball in the high 80s.
Glendale Cactus product Jeff Hoffner joins his brother, current Roughrider freshman Steve, on next year's staff as the program's fourth set of brothers to pass through.
While throwing between 86-89 from the mound, Hoffner also brings above-average speed to his position in the outfield where he'll be a two-way player for the Roughriders.
Matt Trink brings another family connection as the younger brother of former YC catcher Bryan Trink, and already has a one-hitter to his credit as a senior this spring at Scottsdale Horizon. He throws a fastball 86-89 with a breaking ball in his arsenal.
In addition to the pitching, Smeltzer had another important item on his shopping list for next season – athleticism.
As has always been his objective, Smeltzer, now in his seventh season as Yavapai head coach, went for a position-player lineup made up almost entirely of high school shortstops who will be athletic and versatile enough to find new defensive homes on the diamond in a Roughrider uniform.
"I really want us to be a little more athletic. A lot of the kids we recruit are high school shortstops. It makes sure you have an athletic team," Smeltzer said. "When you get a high school shortstop you're getting the best athlete on the team, if not the whole school."
And the Roughriders will need to rebuild after graduating away current leadership lining the bases in infielders Tim Henderson, Kelii Alcon and Ricardo Cruz.
Steve Hoffner, who's spent time at first base this season of late, is back at third base and may land there for good in 2004. Current Roughrider Eric Durante may shift from third to second base next season.
Flanking them will be some combination of the new position players.
Troy Hanzawa, a high school teammate of Ryan Basco in Hawaii, brings amazingly soft hands to the infield very reminiscent of, according to Smeltzer, former Yavapai All-American Todd West (1998-99) who's currently playing pro ball in the Milwaukee Brewers' chain.
Infielder Marcus Henninger comes to YC by way of Phoenix St. Mary's, bringing great hands and a good arm to the middle infield. Also swinging the kind of bat that could land him in the 2-hole, Henninger and Hanzawa should represent Yavapai's middle infield combination of the near future.
Newcomer Gered Mochisuki, the Roughriders' third Hawaiian product of the class of '04, can play the infield or outfield with great speed, not to mention bringing a left-handed bat.
Infielder Tommy Rudden, a big and strong first baseman/catcher, comes from Smeltzer's alma mater, Cherry Creek High School in Englewood, Colo. Definitely a 3- or 4-hole hitter, Rudden has the potential to flourish offensively at Roughrider Park.
In addition to Jeff Hoffner, the new class welcomes a couple of outfielders to the mix as well.
Luis Herrera, out of Henderson, Nev., is versatile enough to play the infield but will likely find himself in his more natural spot in the outfield.
And Tommy Borrelli, a corner outfielder out of Chaparral High School in Parker, Colo., has a live enough throwing arm to secure a spot in right field defensively. He can also serve as a closer with heat that will touch 90 m.p.h. at times.