Toops Settling Into Minor Leagues

FAYETTEVILLE -- After not even making his team at the start of the summer, Brady Toops was named a starter in the Midwest League Summer All-Star Classic on Tuesday.

The former Arkansas catcher was called up two games into the season by the Swing of the Quad Cities, the St. Louis Cardinals' Low-A minor league club in Davenport, Iowa.

"I was still in extended spring training when they called," Toops said. "They had an injury and I was excited just to get the opportunity and have been trying to make the most of it.

"And I started off pretty hot at the plate, but I've kind of cooled off and have been hitting line drives right at people the last few weeks."

Toops has put up decent numbers for a left-handed hitting catcher in only his second season with a wood bat. He's batting .220 with seven RBIs, seven doubles, three stolen bases, two home runs and a triple.

But it's his ability to handle pitchers -- both their breaking balls in the dirt and their in-game mental lapses -- that Toops believes is what sprung him into becoming an all-star.

"I got more votes than anybody and I think that's why," Toops said. "And I really attribute that to my time at Arkansas and being around all the Arkansas coaches ... They all taught me a lot.

"Without being there, I wouldn't have developed all the leadership skills and all the other skills I've needed to be successful at a higher level."





HANCOCK WATCH

Arkansas signee Kyle Hancock, an All-American right-handed pitcher from Rowlett, Texas, remains in negotiations with the Colorado Rockies after they drafted him in the third round of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft earlier this month.

He's already turned down their first two offers, the second being for $430,000.

"They're kind of upset because they thought that I would go for a lot less and they don't know if they're going to meet it," Hancock said. "They're kind of taking their time with it and are still trying to get their No. 2 guy signed, so it may take a little bit of time."

Hancock's advisors, Beverly Hills Sports Council, believes he's worth first-round money which would more than double the Rockies' current offer. If they can't match, he insists he will go to college instead and has been filling out all the proper paper work.

"In case all of this stuff doesn't work out, I'll be ready to go to school because everything has been completed," Hancock said. "We're definitely looking at school really heavy and we're definitely weighing all our options."

It was reported Hancock would go to a junior college, notArkansas. That would give him the option of signing a professional contract after his first year instead of after his third like is allowed from a four-year school.

"I'm not even considering junior college," Hancock said. "If I go to school, Arkansas is where I'll be."



CALL TO ARMS

Not counting Hancock, the Razorbacks have five pitchers either committed or signed for the Class of 2005 with the latest being Pratt (Kan.) Community College right-hander Chris Rhoads, a 6-1, 155-pounder who is originally from North Little Rock and verbally committed last week.

It sounds like they could land another pitcher or two in this class before summer's end.

"We've got a couple guys that we've been talking to," said Hogs pitching coach Dave Jorn. "They're all pitchers and we're just looking for time to bring them in."

Those who have signed with the Hogs are Claremore, Okla., right hander Brett Bollman, Fayetteville left-hander Chad Coldiron, Rockwall, Texas, left-hander James Leverton and Dallas Jesuit right-hander Michael Wild.



TRANSFERRING OUT

At least one Razorback is transferring out of the program while another could follow.

"(Second baseman Brock) Bond is transferrring for sure," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "And I don't know what (pitcher T.J.) Sinovich is planning to do. There has been a request or two to come into to talk to him, but I think the biggest thing for him is to be able to pitch again.

"But he can do whatever he needs to do. We've been with him a year and it was pretty tough on us."

Highly touted out of Maryland Heights (Mo.) High, Sinovich never materialized as a pitcher as he struggled with consistency and accuracy on a daily bases. Bond, who started two games during the NCAA Austin (Texas) Regional, was concerned about playing time next season and could end up at Missouri.



TEAM USA TRIALS

First baseman Danny Hamblin and left-handed pitcher Nick Schmidt are currently in Durham, N.C. for a three-day tryout with Team USA.

"I think both of them have a great opportunity to make the team," said Van Horn, one of four assistants on the squad. "Danny finished up the season swinging the bat really well and Schmidt pitched as well in the postseason as he did all year.

"Both of those guys are going to come in in shape and they're going to have to because there's a lot of competition to make the team."

Tryouts end on Monday.




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