BASEBALL / GARY KLEIN : Singleton, Goebel Turn Tryout Into Career Move


John Snyder, Scott Singleton thanks you.

Dave Landaker, Matt Goebel thanks you.

Snyder, a Westlake High pitcher, and Landaker, a Royal shortstop, were two of the most touted high school players in the area this spring, attracting streams of major league scouts to their games.

Singleton and Goebel were solid, if unspectacular, pitchers at Westlake and Royal, the type of players who normally would find themselves at a junior college before entertaining dreams of a professional career.

As expected, Landaker (Houston Astros) and Snyder (Angels) were drafted and signed. Surprisingly, so were Singleton and Goebel, both by the San Diego Padres, who became impressed by their talent after scout Craig Weissmann stood through countless Westlake and Royal games observing . . . you guessed it, Snyder and Landaker.


“I owe (Snyder) a lot,” said Singleton, who is a roommate of Goebel’s near the Padres’ Arizona rookie-league affiliate in Chandler, Ariz. “The first time Craig Weissmann saw me was in a game where I pitched right after Snyder.”

Now, however, Singleton and Goebel are on their own, and they are doing quite well for Chandler. This time, they have themselves to thank.

Singleton, a 6-foot-6, 180-pound right-hander, has pitched in five games, increasing his effectiveness with every outing. In his most recent appearance, he pitched two innings, striking out the side in the first and retiring the side without a hit in the second.

Goebel, a 6-1 1/2, 175-pound right-hander, has been converted into an outfielder and is six for 14 (.429).

Both players were drafted after attending a one-day tryout camp in San Diego a few days before the draft.

“I still don’t quite understand everything with the tryout,” said Scott’s father, Bruce Singleton, who came to the tryout. “There were 25-30 guys, mostly pitchers and catchers and they went through drills for two to three hours. That was it.

“We got a call from (the Padres) the first night of the draft and they asked Scott what would he do if he were drafted.”

Three days went by without a return call and Singleton figured he would be spending the summer playing for the Westlake-Royal American Legion team.

“After practice on Thursday, there was a message from my mom on our front door,” Singleton said. “It said, ‘You’ve been drafted, they want you.’ ”

Singleton, who was picked in the 40th round, received an undisclosed bonus and a four-year scholarship to the state university of his choice. Goebel received a similar package.

Not a bad opportunity for two players who did not make first-team all-league in high school.

Thanks, John. Thanks, Dave.

One more chance: Jeff Wetherby is only three years removed from playing in the major leagues with the Atlanta Braves. But the period seems like eons to the former standout from Kennedy High, College of the Canyons and USC.

“It seems like light years have passed,” said Wetherby, an outfielder who is playing for Calgary, the Seattle Mariners’ affiliate in the triple-A Pacific Coast League. “I guess I’ll always remember it, but I want it back. I can play (in the major leagues) again.”

Wetherby, signed as a free agent by Seattle last season, batted .288 with seven home runs and 36 runs batted in in 76 games for Jacksonville, Fla., in the double-A Southern League.

Before spring training, he sustained a spider bite on his left leg that ultimately required two dermatological operations and forced him to miss spring training.

When he was recovered, Wetherby said the Mariners told him he was going to be released. Jacksonville Manager Bob Hartsfield, however, requested that Wetherby be allowed to join the team as a non-roster player and perhaps, be groomed as a coach.

Two weeks after he arrived in Jacksonville, an injury to another player allowed Wetherby to become activated. About a week later, the Mariners visited for an exhibition game and Wetherby hit a three-run homer.

The next day, he was in triple A.

“This is the first time I’ve had the chance to play every day since 1988,” said Wetherby, who is batting .261 with three homers and 23 RBIs. “I’m just happy to be wearing a uniform and getting a chance to get back to where I want to be.”

Fort Bragg-ing rights: Dave Leonhardt looks forward to playing home games in Fayetteville, N.C., on Thursday nights because of the crowds that turn out to cheer the Class-A Generals and jeer their South Atlantic League opponents.

Fayetteville is home to Ft. Bragg, one of the nation’s largest military installations.

“Thursday night is military night so they get in free,” said Leonhardt, a third baseman who signed with the Detroit Tigers’ organization out of Cal Lutheran in 1991. “Those guys get on the other team, and when they get tired of that, they get on us.

“They’re loud and fun. They have a good time at those games and they don’t let anyone tell them that they can’t.”

Leonhardt is enjoying his status as Fayetteville’s regular third baseman. Last season, he had a short stint at Niagara Falls in the New York-Penn League, filled in for about two weeks at double-A London, Ontario, in the Eastern League and concluded the year by batting .236 in 55 games for Fayetteville.

This season, Leonhardt is batting .256 with three homers and 30 RBIs.

“I’m improving in all parts of my game,” Leonhardt said. “That’s the key for everyone, to just keep getting better and more consistent.”

Stuck in line: Damon Buford, a former standout at Birmingham High and USC, might be finding himself in a logjam within the Baltimore Orioles’ organization.

Buford, 22, is batting .231 with one homer, 21 RBIs and 35 stolen bases for Hagerstown (Md.) in the double-A Eastern League.

But with Mike Devereaux established as Baltimore’s center fielder, Brady Anderson emerging as a star in left and the selection of Stanford outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds with the organization’s first pick in the draft, the Orioles appear to be well-stocked for years to come.

Buford, of course, could still ascend to the major leagues with the Orioles or another organization.

Doug Melvin, the Orioles’ assistant general manager, told Baseball America magazine that Buford needs to make adjustments.

“His approach to hitting has to change a little bit,” Melvin said. “At this point, he hits too many fly balls. It sounds like what we used to say about Brady. He’s got to be more consistent with his hitting approach.”