For Omaha Westside outfielder Devin Stueck, a return to Werner Park brought back happy memories.
“The last time I was here, we were dogpiling,'' he said. “This will be a lot different today.''
Stueck, a member of the Warriors' championship team in the spring, was back at Werner for another reason Monday. He was one of about 100 taking part in a showcase sponsored by The Strike Zone, giving the players — juniors in high school up to age 23 — a chance to show their stuff in front of college coaches and major league scouts.
“It's an opportunity for these players to get on the radar,'' Strike Zone General Manager Joe Siwa said. “This is the chance for these boys to maybe get to the next level.''
It cost each player $40 to participate in the showcase, which The Strike Zone baseball facility has hosted for more than 10 years. It had often been held at Rosenblatt Stadium but has shifted west, along with the Omaha Storm Chasers.
Stueck, who will be a senior in the fall, said he was looking forward to the opportunity. He has been playing American Legion baseball this summer but added it never hurts to get additional exposure.
“You're never sure who might be watching,'' he said. “I want to play in college so I'm hoping this will open a door for me.''
Millard West's Cole Stobbe, who will be a sophomore in the fall, said he has attended similar showcases and was past the nervous stage.
“At the first couple, I had some jitters,'' he said. “Now I know the routine pretty well, so they're kind of fun.''
Some players came farther than Stueck or Stobbe. Adam Jorgensen had traveled from Waverly, Trever Carroll was there from Malcolm while another player was wearing a McCook baseball T-shirt.
“We want to see if Adam will be able to further his baseball career,'' said his father, Jeff Jorgensen. “We thought we'd give it a shot because we feel as though we've got nothing to lose.''
Trever's mother Sheila said the showcase gave her son a chance to prove himself in front of college coaches who might otherwise not see him play.
“We don't a have a high school baseball team in the spring,'' she said. “He plays Legion ball, but we're from a smaller town. Why not give it a shot?''
Another interested parent Monday was Randy Fraser, whose son Luke is playing this summer for the South Omaha Post 331 Legion team. He kept track of Luke's progress on the diamond with his binoculars.
“I hope he's got his good fastball today,'' Fraser said. “He had a no-hitter last Friday night so hopefully somebody will give him a chance.''
University of Nebraska at Omaha coach Bob Herold said the showcase provides a great opportunity for players and coaches.
“I get out to a game pretty much every night and I know I can't see everyone,'' he said. “To have something like this is incredibly important, and I know we've found some very good players this way.''
Herold added that he wasn't necessarily looking for the strongest or the fastest performer.
“A lot of times you're looking at how somebody reacts when he hits an infield pop-up,'' he said. “If he runs hard on every play, that's something every coach is going to notice.''
The players went through several stations Monday that tested speed, arm strength, hitting and pitching ability. Those who performed the best were asked to stay and compete in a simulated game.
All players who took part received an evaluation sheet from The Strike Zone, which Siwa said should help them in the future.
“I believe there's someplace where every one of these guys can play,'' he said. “Hopefully we can play a part in making that happen.''