Former major-league player Chris Duncan feels the St. Louis region is underrated on a national scale when it comes to producing baseball talent.
The former Cardinals outfielder, who will manage the Illinois squad Monday at the PNC Bank All-Star Baseball Showcase at Busch Stadium, doesn't have far to look for evidence.
New York Mets catcher Josh Thole is a Mater Dei High School graduate and Chicago Cubs pitcher Randy Wells played for Belleville East and Southwestern Illinois College. Los Angels reliever Jason Isringhausen is a Southwestern High graduate from Brighton.
In 2008, Highland High graduate Jake Odorizzi led his team to a Class 3A state championship, was named national Player of the Year by USA Today and was a supplemental first-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Now playing in the Royals organization, the hard-throwing right-hander tore up the Class AA Texas League this spring and earned a promotion to Class AAA Omaha.
Odorizzi stoked the flames for a potential call-up to the majors later this season by going 4-0 at Omaha with a 2.41 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings.
Along with Phillies all-star first baseman Ryan Howard, major-league rosters also include former St. Louis area stars Max Scherzer (Tigers), Mark Buehrle (White Sox), Ross Detweiler (Nationals), Scott Van Slyke (Dodgers), Jake Outman (Rockies) and David Phelps (Yankees).
Among the fairly high recent draft picks from the metro-east are former Granite City catcher Jake DePew (Rays), former Wesclin High pitcher Tyler Kehrer (Angels) and former Belleville West and Waterloo outfielder Garrett Schlecht (Cubs).
The St. Louis side of the river produced a number of high draft picks in the last decade as well, including former first-round pick Jacob Turner (Tigers).
On the college level, former Columbia pitcher Trent Blank was an All-American at Baylor this spring and freshman left-hander Bryant Holtmann (Central High) is at the College World Series with Florida State.
Former Althoff pitcher Brett Huber tied the saves record at Mississippi, former Edwardsville standout Dane Opel is a three-year starter for Missouri and former Columbia standout Ben Thoma set a home run record at Eastern Illinois.
"There's a lot of good talent that comes from the St. Louis area," Duncan said. "Everybody knows the warm-weather states pump out of a lot of ballplayers, but to see St. Louis pump out that kind of talent is a credit to a lot of people in the community, the high school coaches, the baseball facilities, big-league players that stay in the area and continue to work with players, a lot of people."
While many of the all-star players are already signed, others have a chance to attract further exposure or just see how they stack up against the area's best.
"I look back at my high school career and stuff like that was so important for your development as a player," Duncan said of the showcase setting at Busch. "These kids are going to be able to get into a big-league stadium and bounce stuff off of us and ask questions. It's going to be fun."
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.