Open tryouts and 'indie ball blues' in Indiana

Open tryouts for Gary’s indie-ball team draw baseball hopefuls.

May 21, 2014

On a cold, gray morning in Gary, Ind., about 40 baseball hopefuls sat in the Gary Railcats’ home dugout, looking up at Manager Greg Tagert.

It was a bleak day, and Tagert’s speech to them was equally bleak.

The men in the dugout had plunked down $40 for a chance to try out for the ‘Cats - an independent-league team that is about as low on the hierarchy as you can get and still be considered pro ball.

The players trying out were minor-league washouts trying to hold on, or college stars looking for their big break.

Tagert told them that only a handful of them would make the cut today - five or less. And even those lucky few couldn’t count on making the roster.

Whether or not you’re a fan - baseball means American summer as much as barbecues, fireworks and the beach.

But for the men in that dugout it means something more -- it’s an obsession, a dream job.

WBEZ spent the day at the open tryouts for the Gary Railcats.

The Railcats were last season’s American Association champions - but the team’s players are still looking for a way to move up.

Even though the small-time, Single A Durham Bulls--remember the movie Bull Durham?-- would be a dream come true for many of them, they are all really good at baseball.

Just about all the guys who tried out starred on their high school baseball teams. They’re not good enough for the big leagues, but they are still way better than you.

The team’s home opener is at 7 Thursday evening against the Wichita Wingnuts.  They’ll be playing at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary. 

Video producer John Scott is a filmmaker who lives and works in Chicago.

Patrick Smith is a WBEZ Producer and Reporter. Follow him on twitter @pksmid.

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