Scouts have a field day at NIU

By Fred Konrath

Baseball scouts from the Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, Phillies, Dodgers and Astros were all out at McKinzie Field last Friday scouting players from the NIU baseball team.

NIU head coach Joe “Spanky” McFarland conducted an open scout session and impressed many of the scouts with his new facility and up-and-coming program.

“There are some pretty good-size boys out there,” said Frank Arut, a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers. “They showed good arm strength, and I saw some kids who can run. I’ll definitely come back for a game situation in the spring.”

Arut also liked the enthusiasm he saw on the field. “I didn’t see one kid loafing around,” he said. “They’re baring down, even in practice. I hope they stick with it when they start playing competitively.”

John Hennessy, of the Chicago Cubs, was impressed with one of the Huskie pitchers, Josh Brown. “He had good velocity on his fastball,” Hennessy said. “I’ll see him in a spring game. Now it gives us a chance to see who we want to bear down on in the spring.”

Hennessy was also one to praise coach McFarland. “He’s a great coach,” said Hennessy. “He knows what he’s doing and he holds a real nice workout. It’s good to see the program moving up.”

The Huskies were scouted for two hours of practice, as pitchers were timed with the radar gun, runners were timed for the 40-yard dash and infielders and outfielders had the chance to show off their range and arms.

Steven Arnieri, a scout for the Chicago White Sox, couldn’t believe how far the baseball program at NIU has come. Arnieri is an NIU alum and coached for the Huskie baseball team in 1980-81.

“It’s fun to come back and see where the program is going, and it’s really nice to see an emphasis toward baseball again,” said Arnieri. “Spanky runs a first-class operation here, and every year the talent is getting better and better.

“He’s starting to get the better players from the Chicago area and suburbs because he’s getting a good reputation. There were a lot of interesting kids out there. Now I have a reason to come back.”