By TONY VIOLA
WHEELING -The Beast of the East tournament draws teams from all stretches of the East Coast and parts of Canada to come to the Ohio Valley and prove they truly are the beasts of the east.
Denny Szalai, of the Premier Double Dogs out of Cleveland, is measured in the long jump by Ron Vrana, of Paramount Scouting Bureau and National Scouting Report’s annual Player Showcase, on Wednesday at Patterson Field.
It's the day before the tournament, however, where the Beast actually tells the players who is the best during the Paramount Scouting Bureau and National Scouting Report's annual Player Showcase, which took place Wednesday at Patterson Field in Elm Grove.
Ron Vrana, an official scout with Paramount, has helped put on the Player Showcase for the last 17 years.
''It went pretty well,'' Vrana noted of the 2013 versions. ''We had a nice turnout. About 200 guys. Actually had some guys with talent this year. Good speed, strong arms. It's been pretty good.''
Though the 200 kids did get their opportunity to shine, the number of those opportunities has dramatically decreased the past several years.
''About six or seven years ago, we would have 400 guys,'' Vrana pointed out. ''This year only about 200 guys. The thing is, there's a lot more tournaments, guys going in different directions.''
For Denny Szalia, who is in town with the Premier Devil Dogs out of Cleveland, it was a special opportunity.
''I thought it was a great,'' the 16-year-old said. ''It gives me some exposure. I get out with the coaches and work on what I need to work on. They critiqued me, gave me a couple of pointers here and there. I think it was a good experience.''
The center fielder and pitcher is no stranger to player showcases though as Wednesday served as his second baseball showcase and seventh overall - ''I've been around doing this a little while'' - as he also has been to five football combines where the rising junior showed off his stuff at quarterback, running back and receiver.
Still, the exposure hasn't gone to his head.
''I'm just hoping to get to college,'' he said. ''I want to be a personal trainer, so sports science is what I'm looking to major in.''
Usually just for high school players, the Player Showcase was open for middle schoolers for the first time this year.
''It's something we added this year because B.A. (Crawford), a couple of years ago, brought in the younger kids during the same weekend, so we figured we'd offer it to the younger kids,'' Vrana said. ''We had a small turnout, but it's a start.''
The tournament, now in its 25th year, begins at 8 a.m. today on area baseball fields across the Ohio Valley.