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San Diego Padres Turn To Southeast South Dakota For Players

Gary Ellenbolt

Sixty high school and college baseball players got together in Yankton’s baseball park Thursday.  The athletes are coming together to show the scout and other baseball coaches from area colleges they can play at the next level.

A round ball covered in cowhide thrown into a baseball glove at top speed is an unmistakable piece of sound.  About  sixty young men, in every color of uniform one could think of, are loosening their arms with a game of catch.  They hope they have enough talent to someday dot the roster of the Major League Baseball San Diego Padres.  The Padres’ scout in this part of the country is Hank Krause.  He observes the young men from several states going through their paces, he knows few if any of them will get to the major league level.           

Credit Gary Ellenbolt / South Dakota Public Broadcasting
Veteran baseball scout Hank Krause (L) oversees a San Diego Padres tryout camp in Yankton.

Krause says, “In this part of the country, we send a lot of kids to college, because the kids out here are not really ready to play pro ball.  If we get ‘em to college, let ‘em play a couple, two, three years in college—it’s a situation here, guys, where the kids want to play, and why not showcase ‘em?"

Krause is 76 years old, and has scouted players across the region for decades.  In his career, four players he helped sign to professional contracts have made the majors.   It doesn’t take him long to know who the true prospects are.

“Well—about 10 minutes after they throw.  The major thing—can they run or can they throw?  If they can run and they can throw, then they’ve got a shot.  We don’t worry too much about ‘em hitting, ‘cause that’s the thing—right now, if they can throw the ball well from the outfield or throw well from the mound or from the infield, they’ve got a shot to play college ball at some level.”

And the college coaches are there, all wearing caps for their schools—from Division One South Dakota State, to the local Mount Marty College.  Matt Lepke, in his white, black and orange Mobridge Post Four Legion team hat hopes he can get someone’s attention at his first tryout.

“It’s a different experience,” Lepke admits; “it’s a real learning curve and it’s nice to see some of the other great players across the state be here.”

As far as Lepke’s tryout experience at his shortstop position, he says--

“I did okay—I did have one bad throw, put it in the dirt—but the rest were okay.”

The players wrap up the morning with a trip to the batting cage—looking to make contact, and someday looking to make the trip from their home fields, to San Diego’s Petco Park.