Saints prospect not short on drive

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 3, 2012 - 11:38 PM

Chris Cates, at 5-3, knows his limitations, but he's also confident in his ability.

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Skies above Midway Stadium opened up Thursday morning and washed out the batting practice portion of the St. Paul Saints' annual open tryout. Before the storm, 45 players arrived -- some nearly two hours early -- to show their skills for manager George Tsamis and his staff.

"Some guys we see out here can play," Tsamis said. ''And to be honest, there are guys who shouldn't be here."

During the torrential rain, Chris Cates jeered at the river of mud flowing from the field. At barely 5-3, the former Twins prospect doesn't stand out like a professional baseball player should.

Save the short guy jokes, though. He's heard 'em all.

"I have fun with it," said Cates, who once stood on 13 phone books to get to the height of former Twins prospect Loek van Mil, a 7-1 pitcher. "At least I know people are paying attention. I don't shy away from my height. But the reason I'm here is because I'm a good baseball player."

The middle infielder played college ball for Louisville, hitting .332 as a junior. He spent the last two seasons at Class AA New Britain, but was released during the final week of spring training.

"Just been waiting for another call," Cates said.

It came from Tsamis, after the manager received one from Twins minor league director Jim Rantz. He suggested Tsamis give the 27-year-old a look.

The rain made it a brief one. But on Rantz's advice alone, Tsamis invited Cates to the Saints training camp in preparation for their 20th season.

"I've heard he's a solid kid and a solid player," Tsamis said, "but he'll have to make the team."

Cates, dubbed "Wee man" by his Louisville teammates, has not hit a home run since leaving the Cardinals after they reached the College World Series his senior year in 2007.

He prefers to play -- and these are his words -- small ball. The Florida native says it with a chuckle and a determined attitude.

"Three-run home runs aren't what I can bring here," Cates said. "But I can make a play in the field that saves three runs. Whenever my number is called, I'll be ready to play."

Players of all shapes and sizes were part of Thursday's crop, all of whom got a chance to show their skills at a position. They wore baseball pants and sweatpants, major league caps and bar-league caps. When temperatures began to drop, one hopeful pulled a camouflage windbreaker over his head.

Donning an orange sleeveless T-shirt with "SECURITY" printed on the back, 6-foot, 280-pound lefthander Jamar Cadejuste threw a bullpen session for new Saints pitching coach Kerry Ligtenberg.

"Look at that. Maybe he can bring heat," a passerby said.

Tsamis will decide on any further training camp invitees when the tryout resumes Friday morning.

For now it's just Cates, who has a chance to rejoin Saints infielder Jon Townsend, his roommate for a year at Louisville.

"He does a lot of little things right," Townsend said, intending the pun. "If there's one person who will be comfortable here, it's him. He's worked really hard and deserves a chance."

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