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Baseball dream continues

by Chuck Smock

March 9 is going to be a big day for Jonathan Storke. And it’s a day he’s been thinking about since he was a little kid.

In three weeks, the former Douglas High baseball star will make his first trip to a Major League Baseball spring training session.

Storke, who signed a four-year, free-agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles in June, spent the last half of last summer’s Rookie A season in Sarasota, Fla., where he played shortstop, third base and spent some time in the outfield.

The former Tiger is looking forward to the opportunity to join all the other players in the Orioles’ organization -including Cal Ripken Jr. – at the club’s spring training facility in Sarasota next month.

“I’m pumped to get back and to go to spring training,” he said. “I had a blast last summer. It was one of the greatest times of my life. Every day, from 7 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m., we were playing baseball. You can’t beat it. You go out to the field every day and that’s your job. You’re getting paid to play baseball. You’re not going to an office.

“That’s been a dream since I was in Little League. So far, my dream’s coming true. I couldn’t ask for anything more right now. It’s been awesome. I’m having a good time.”

Storke spent last weekend teaching the fundamentals of infield play at a youth clinic presented by the Reno Silver Sox, an 18-and-under youth baseball club.

Among the participants Sunday at Swope Middle School in Reno was Silver Sox pitcher Matt Duffie, whose father, John Duffie, invited Storke to come to the clinic. Matt Duffie played for the Douglas junior varsity baseball team last spring.

“These clinics are a lot of fun,” Storke said. “I remember when I was in high school, Shawn Estes came back and he did clinic. And he still does them.

“When I was at Fresno State, we did clinics for Little League guys. It’s good to give back. It’s part of baseball. You learn from other guys and keep passing it down. You give back what you learn.”

Storke was drafted by the Colorado Rockies following his senior year at Douglas, but decided he needed a few years to mature enough to be ready to pursue a professional baseball career.

He spent a year at a junior college in California and another year at a junior college in Arizona before moving on to Division I Fresno State, where he red-shirted when the Bulldogs’ senior shortstop returned after not getting drafted.

Three years of college baseball gave Storke the confidence he needed to try to make the jump to the pros. Even so, the move to the Rookie A league presented a whole new learning curve.

“I think the biggest adjustment is hitting big-league pitching,” Storke said. “It’s not so much the speed, but they know how to pitch better. They know how to hit their spots and know what to throw you on certain counts. They make fewer mistakes. You have to look for that mistake. You might get one per at-bat, and if you miss it it’s going to be hard to get though the at-bat.”

The defensive side of the game has always been a strength for Storke. And the quality of the pitching in the pros combined with the use of wood bats has allowed Storke to make an easier transition in the field.

“I think the fielding is actually a little easier,” he said. “Guys are hitting it hard, but they don’t have those metal bats in their hands. You’re not getting 200 mile-per-hour shots off those aluminum bats coming at you. That’s the biggest thing I saw. Even when I was playing third base, I got some hot shots, but not like I got in college.”

Storke said he’s hoping to start the upcoming season with the Orioles’ A team in Delmarva, Md. If he plays well and impresses his coaches, he said there’s a chance he could finish out the year in AA ball.

“I am going to shoot to get to AA by the end of the season,” he said. “If I don’t make it, I’ll have a full year of pro baseball under my belt, and that will make me a lot better.

“It’s luck too. You can be playing good and the guy ahead of you is playing good, too, but if he gets hurt, you can get the call to fill that position. If you get pulled up, you have to take advantage of that shot and make it count.”

And the very first shot comes on March 9.

“It’s going to be fun to take groundballs with Cal Ripken Jr.,” Storke said. “I’ve idolized that guy since I was a little kid, now I get to take groundballs next to him. That will be really fun.

“I’m going to tell him I’m coming after him,” Storke added with a laugh. “I wouldn’t mind starting a streak of my own.”

worked on hitting through the offseason in Southern California

worked out with J.T. Snow

good experience hitting with those guys and learning what they do and what they look for

hit against Boston ace Ramon Martinez when he was rehabbing an injury

two doubles and a single in three at-bats

he wasn’t throwing as hard, but you could see the poise he had. You could tell he was a big-league pitcher. He was thinking what he was going to throw you. Pitchers will set you up. once they figure out your strengths and weaknesses, it gets harder as you go up. Not so much the fastball, but the way they throw it. They’ll hit the corner. They’ll change speeds. The sliders break harder and the curveballs break harder, but they thorw it where they want it. they’ll throw it low and get the outside corner

minor in criminology

major in sociology

professor in college and coaching college

next winter coaching job at Sonoma State and go to school

FBI is a possibility

last year goit to meet Will Clark

workong out wioth Scott Erickson in Arizona