Who's the Fastest of Them All?

VERO BEACH, Fla.- It's among the more interesting and, for that matter, entertaining rites of spring training at Dodgertown- the annual 40-yard dashes to determine who's the swiftest man in camp. The preliminary competiton is held by positions until they assembled those with the best times in the final run-off.

Do the players really care? Of course, they do- very much so. After all, these are professional athletes so to be competitive is part of their gene pool. Why, outfielder Derry Jackson apparently had spent the winter, mulling over the fact that Baseball America had declared another outfielder, Trayvon Robinson, the fastest man in the system.

Robinson had been awarded that title because he had won a similar race in the fall Instructional League camp. But, since he was a signee after last June's draft, he wasn't here for last spring's competiton and Jackson, who wasn't in the fall camp, declared, "I can take him. "

Well, Jackson got his change in one of those early heats and Robinson was a convincing winner. Jackson didn't even qualify for the finals When the elite group assembled Tuesday for the title race, the field consisted of these participants (in alphabetical order) :

Outfielder Jerermy Brown. A former McDonald's high school All-American basketball player, signed as a draft-and-follow last May.

Infielder Brandon Carter. The nephew of Las Vegas manager Jerry Royster, who had sone running skills of his own in his playing days.

Outfielder Jeff Duncan. Briefly with the Mets in 2004-04, who was signed as a free agent over the winter.

Outfielder Adam Godwin. The reiging NCAA stolen base champ, who was drafted last June.

Outfielder Jamie Hoffmann. Onetime third baseman (and, before that, a hockey player), who at 6-3, 210, was the biggest qualifier.

Outfielder Luke May. Switched from shortstop last June. Injured most of last season.

Robinson.

Outfielder Ryan Rogowski. Signed as a free agent late last summer. Set the Northwoods League (a collegiate summer circuit) stolen base record.

Outfielder Jovanny Rosario. Over from Campo Las Palmas, the Dominican base, for the first time.

Two others who qualified, the veteran outfielder Wilkin Ruan and still another outfielder, Ryan Carter, who was the runner-up to Robinson in last fall's race, had to scratch because of injuries.

You'll notice the field was long on outfielders. Not surprising since speed is an essential quality to playing out there. And six of those in the field weren't here for last spring's doings.

There were a number of those who had their adherants with Robinson the slight favorite. Enough suspense.

And the winner was- Rosario, the Dominican, clocked in 6.35 followed by Robinson in 6.37, then Duncan in 6.39.

The gold, silver and bronze medal winners, if they were handing out such hardware, which they weren't. (There were cash awards to the first two. These are pros, after all).

As Rosario hit the tape, he raised his arms high in proper joy, and was mobbed by his fellow countrymen. Not quite Japan winning the WBC but, a nice moment, nonetheless.

They didn't bother sorting out who was fourth as the field cross the finish line in blanket fashion. Later, both Brown and Godwin claimed that distinction. Not Rogowski, who shook his head and remarked, "Too good a field for me. "

It should morph into a lot of stolen bases this summer. And that's something the Dodgers want more of. Which is really what these camptown races are all about. Doo-dah, Doo-dah.

Sorry, couldn't resist that.

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