AVON — They came from all over the country — and even a few foreign countries.
Some played in high school. Others played in college. A few had even played professional baseball before.
But they all had something in common: They wanted to keep living the dream.
The Lake Erie Crushers, led by first-year manager Chris Mongiardo and his coaching staff, opened All Pro Freight Stadium on Thursday morning for a tryout.
Forty-four potential pros showed up, some from the team’s own backyard, and displayed their talents for not only the Crushers, but also the random scouts who sat in the stands.
When the tryout, which ran from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., concluded, Mongiardo was not so blown away he signed anyone on the spot. However, he did say he was impressed with some of the players.
“I thought we had some good talent,” Mongiardo said.
“I thought we had some pitchers that threw the ball real well and I thought there were a few position players here that showed they can play well. But rather than make a quick judgment on those players now, I’d rather take a little time and go over our roster and see if we can’t bring anybody back, possibly.
“If we can, we definitely will. And that’s what I told the guys before we dismissed them.”
Former Crushers relief pitcher Matt Suschak was one of those guys. The Brecksville graduate was released by the team after one appearance early in the season in 2013.
The former seventh-round pick by the Atlanta Braves in 2010 figured he’d give his baseball career one more shot.
“I just wanted to come out and get the feet wet, so to speak, and see some live action,” Suschak said. “I figured, why not? This is my first tryout, and I was planning on going to the Frontier League one on Monday and Tuesday. I figured this would be a good preparation for that tryout and help get my name out there.”
Among the locals showing off their skills was Lorain resident and Midview graduate Tyler Marrero. The catcher came to the Crushers’ open tryout last year, which was the first open tryout the team hosted since their debut season of 2009.
“I made the second cut at last year’s tryout and I was able to do that again this year,” said Marrero, a 2011 Midview graduate who played two years at Division III LaRoche (Pa.) College. “I’m going down to the Frontier League camp next week, but other than that, no other tryouts for me right now.
“Knowing how it went last year makes it a bit easier to know what to expect coming into it this year. It’s a little less pressure going into it. You know what talent’s going to be there. Overall, there’s just less pressure on yourself.”
Anthony Pierce, who will graduate from Elyria High in a month, decided to give it a shot to play for his hometown team. Pierce, who had played baseball for the Pioneers but isn’t this year, was trying out as a second baseman and outfielder. He made the first cut and was the leadoff hitter for his team during the scrimmage portion of the day.
“I love the game and I want to continue playing it,” Pierce said. “I play for the Lorain County Storm in the summer but I’ve been a fan of the Crushers since they came around. I’ve been to this stadium a lot as fan, and it’s really cool to be out on the field doing drills and showing what I can do.
“I wanted to see good competition and see what I’m going to be facing. I hope to play baseball in college if I don’t join the military.”
Amherst resident Collin Hamilton, who played high school baseball in Texas, was among the pitching hopefuls. After a bullpen session, he pitched one-half of an inning during the scrimmage. Unfortunately, he allowed the only home run hit during the game.
“It’s a dream of mine to play professional baseball, especially to do it here in my hometown,” Hamilton said. “My grandfather helped finance this stadium before he passed away, so it’s an honor to get the chance to try out here at a place that’s meant so much to my family.
“Pitching-wise, I do a little bit of everything. I’m hoping to make a team and get noticed. I think everyone out here is all trying to make the dream a reality and be noticed.”
One local pitcher who caught Mongiardo’s attention was Olmsted Falls resident and Lakewood graduate Jordan Cross. The Wheeling Jesuit product was hoping to do enough to keep his baseball career alive.
Mongiardo said he “threw the ball really well.”
“I just want to keep playing baseball,” Cross said. “I haven’t played anywhere else since I graduated, but I’m hoping to do so this summer and, hopefully, it will be here.
“My specialty is my fastball (and) slider. I want to get noticed and hopefully carry that over Monday to the (league) tryout in Florence and wind up on a team.”
There were other players from Ohio, but many came from other states, including as far away as California. There was at least one Canadian at the tryout and two from the Dominican Republic.
“It’s definitely nice to get that kind of response,” Mongiardo said. “I think it helped that we held this before the Frontier League tryout because it seemed like we had a little more talent here than we did last year. I know the one kid from the Dominican threw the ball real well as a pitcher and the other did well as a shortstop.
“If I don’t wind up signing anyone back right away, I’ll at least have these guys’ names and numbers. Once we get into spring training, when I definitely have a better view of our team, there might be a few guys we brought in that aren’t in shape or not up to snuff. If that’s the case … boom … we call the guys right from the tryout and give them a chance.”
Davis coming back
Mongiardo confirmed that veteran third baseman Andrew Davis will return to the Crushers for his sixth and final season. He did say that the move puts his team above the league salary cap and that he may have to move another player in a trade.
* The Crushers reacquired pitcher Connor Whalen from the Gary SouthShore RailCats for a player to be named later. Whalen, who went 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA for the Crushers last season, was dealt to Schaumburg on Jan. 14 to complete the Craig Hertler trade.
* Former Elyria High School baseball coach Steve “Sonny” Sunagel was assisting the Crushers in pitching drills.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.