6/04/2007 – Daily News Record
San Jose-Bred Turk Honing Skills Here Written By Brent Johnson Daily News Record HARRISONBURG — The weather in San Jose on Sunday wasn’t stereotypically Californian: 71 degrees and cloudy, with 48 percent humidity. Still, if Alex Kalogrides were back in his hometown, he might have been headed to the beach, overcast or not. And he certainly knows the weather wouldn’t have kept him from the baseball diamond. But instead, Kalogrides was 2,800 miles across the country, lounging around his new Harrisonburg apartment in a T-shirt, gym shorts and socks, sheltered from the Shenandoah Valley rain. There was no beach, no sun and — most importantly — no baseball. Enjoying the weather yet? "Not too much so far," Kalogrides said with a laugh. But the 19-year-old, who speaks every sentence through an oh-so-California constant smile, is taking it all in stride. Once the weather clears up, the baseball will resume — and Kalogrides will be reminded why he’s here. The right-handed pitcher, who played his freshman season at the University of San Francisco this spring, is one of the new faces on the Harrisonburg Turks. Valley League players — comprised of collegians from coast to coast — spend their summers here, often far from home, hoping either to gain the attention of scouts or improve their skills. Kalogrides, a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder, falls into the latter category. He pitched just 18 innings for USF as a freshman — the third-lowest total on the team — and made only two starts. As a rising sophomore, he’s still a year away from being draftable. So the pro scouts in the stands are less important to him than simple playing time. "That’s all I’m here to do: work out and get some innings," Kalogrides said Sunday after the Turks’ game at Front Royal was postponed until June 18 because of a stubborn rain. "I just want to get better. That’s my main goal." In limited action, Kalogrides went 1-0 with a team-low 1.50 ERA in 16 appearances with USF, allowing 19 hits and three earned runs, while striking out nine. San Francisco coach Nino Giarratano said Kalogrides has a chance to be one of the Dons’ weekend starters in 2008. So, as he’s done with a handful of players in the past, Giarratano sent Kalogrides to Harrisonburg to get some work in. "He needs to get opportunities and innings," said Giarratano, who estimates that he’s placed six or seven players on the Turks. "He’s got great stuff. He needs to sharpen up his breaking ball. But his fastball has been great and his changeup has really been good." Turks coach Bob Wease said he hasn’t fleshed out the team’s pitching rotation yet, so he’s not sure whether Kalogrides will come out of the bullpen or start. "But he’ll be throwing a lot for us," said Wease, whose Turks beat New Market 8-4 Saturday at Memorial Stadium, sandwiching the win between two rainouts. "… Everybody is going to pitch — it’s just a matter of when. But he’s supposed to be pretty good." Although Kalogrides once visited Puerto Rico to play in a tournament, this is the farthest he has been away from home on his own. And like many of the players who travel as far as he did to play with the Turks, Kalogrides is still in a bit of culture — or fauna — shock. "It’s just a small town," he said of Harrisonburg. "There’s trees everywhere. And everyone talks with an accent. It’s just a lot different." Then, there was his eye-opening first visit to Harrisonburg’s Wal-Mart Supercenter. "In California, there aren’t any superstores, or whatever they call it," he said. "They don’t have the groceries like here. "You can pretty much get anything," he marveled. For the record, San Jose’s metro population is about 1.7 million; Harrisonburg’s is about 113,000. And Wal-Mart does list one Supercenter among its 18 stores near San Jose – in Gilroy, Calif., 29 miles away. Here in Harrisonburg, Kalogrides has two geographically anachronistic roommates to keep him company at Foxhill apartments: James Kennedy, a Rider (N.J.) University pitcher from Levittown, Pa., and Garrett Parker, a Howard (Texas) College pitcher from Duncanville, Texas. The Turks pay for their players’ housing and also set them up with jobs, if they choose to work. Kalogrides, a major golf fan, will work for Virginia Golf Carts, likely washing carts and "doing little things here and there," he said. USF coach Giarratano knows from experience that Kalogrides will come back much improved, if not more culturally aware, as well. "I think they come back a lot wiser," Giarratano said of the players he’s set up with the Turks, "and ready to help us win." And that’s why Kalogrides is eager to soak in his new environment — rain and all. "I mean, I miss everyone back home and I miss California," he said, "but just the opportunity here is pretty good. So, I’m happy to be here."