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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Players Warming Up To Heat Baseball Club Gains Recognition As An Asset In Advancing Youngsters’ Careers

Drew Brooks refers to his Spokane Heat as a “one-stop shopping forum” for major league baseball scouts.

Mark Reeves appreciates seeing the scouts, too, but has another reason for his involvement with the Heat, whose schedule includes games throughout the region.

“It’s not all terrible road trips,” said Reeves, whose son, Grant, was last spring’s most valuable player in Greater Spokane League baseball. “These are times you spend with your family. That’s what we like about it.”

Grant Reeves and 22 other players from the Northwest are spending part of their summer playing for the Heat, Brooks’ 3-year-old brainchild.

A typical Heat game might draw 50 or so supporters, as was the case with a July 1 doubleheader at Seafirst Stadium, but scouts are frequent visitors.

“The Heat has six of the top prospects from the GSL,” said Mark Reeves, who played college ball at Whitworth. “Now that, for scouts, is a bona fide plus.”

The Heat is a select team, much in the manner of AAU basketball or club volleyball. There are no tryouts. Brooks identifies players he’d like to have on his squad, then meets with the family to see if the fit is right.

The roster features a ‘who’s who’ of area high school leagues. Reeves and Mead High teammates Rob Elmer and Sam Hess convincingly won the title during the just-completed GSL season. Ferris finished second, and the Saxons are represented on the Heat by 1996 GSL MVP Eric Sandberg, Marques Molett and Brian Munhall.

Bryan Miller, Pat Stiffler and Tucker Urdahl represent Cheney, which finished third among Class AA teams at state. Northwest Christian’s Jeremy Affeldt, drafted in the third round by Kansas City, had three at-bats before signing a pro contract and reporting to Florida.

“We don’t necessarily have all the best players,” Brooks said. “We have a lot of good players and good team chemistry.”

Brooks formed the Heat in 1995. Counting their ‘97 schedule of more than 85 games, the Heat will have played more than 200 teams from 22 states and three countries by the time their Pride of America World Series, at four local sites, ends on Aug. 17.

Sandberg’s parents, Jacque and Ward, are members of the Heat’s five-person board of directors.

Jacque Sandberg, the secretary, said the concept of club baseball still seems strange to Spokane people accustomed to a strict diet of Babe Ruth or American Legion.

“But we’re already seeing 12-year-old, 14-year-old and 16-year-old teams contacting us, interested in starting their own (club) teams,” Sandberg said.

The cost per player is $3,500, but little or no money comes out of pocket. Auctions, ticket sales and advertising campaigns defray much of the cost.

Mark Reeves said the competition - out-of-area Legion teams, West Coast select teams, Junior Olympic teams - is 90 percent competitive with some ‘fish’ thrown in. The Heat owned a 34-10 record heading into this weekend.

The Spokane AAA Legion won’t play the Heat because of a rift between the organizations. The Legion barred Heat players this year, mainly because of conflicts with pitching schedules last year.

“If I can say anything, we love American Legion baseball,” Brooks said. “I think they have a fine program.”

Blue Devils, Cannons split

Jeff Lafferty and Brian Coe belted third-inning home runs Saturday to give the Blue Devils a split of their AAA American Legion baseball doubleheader with the Cannons at Gonzaga University.

The Blue Devils won the second game 7-4 after the Cannons capitalized on three errors to score six runs in the fourth and claim the opener 6-4.

Brian Chance scattered seven hits to win the first game while George Petticrew, who had won six straight, suffered his first loss for the Blue Devils.

In the second game, Lafferty’s homer broke a scoreless tie. After the next batter walked, Coe followed with a two-run blast. Winner Eric Hayden struck out seven.

, DataTimes

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