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Major gain with minor leaguers

If you build it, they will come.

There's a brick wall being built around the baseball field at Ridgewood High School that Coach Larry Beets says will be unique in the state when it's done next year.

"Our own field of dreams," Beets said.

Beets has been building something else at Ridgewood, something more important: a reputation for having one of the best high school programs in the area.

That's what attracted four minor leaguers, including former Ridgewood ace Dave Doorneweerd, who came to the school during the winter to get in shape for spring training. They report to camps today.

The four have worked out daily at Ridgewood, going through the same drills as the high school players. In the process, the minor leaguers have shown the Ridgewood players what it might take for them to reach their dreams.

"It's fun to talk with them and hear the stories of what they all had to go through to get where they are," said Ridgewood third baseman Brooks Derousie, who lined a shot off Doorneweerd during a recent batting practice.

"One day he might look back and watch Dave on TV and say, "Hey, I hit that guy,' " Beets said. "Having them here is just a great plus for us. The kids have Dumbo ears. They listen to everything these guys say and they use it to their advantage. It's like having four extra coaches.

"And having them here shows the kids what can happen when you have the athletic ability and the willingness to work for what you want."

What the four players _ Doorneweerd, Mike Linskey, Sean Evans and Ridgewood grad Joe Bertucci _ want is to reach the major leagues.

Evans, a 23-year-old pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, said working with the Rams gives him and the others an advantage over many other players.

"This is just a great situation," said Evans, a Buffalo native who has family members in Palm Harbor. "Back up North, they're still playing hockey. They won't pick up a baseball for another two or three weeks.

"This gives us such a head start. We even get to throw to batters. And even though they may not be as high a caliber as we're used to, they are still guys swinging the bat."

Evans learned about Beets and Ridgewood through Doorneweerd when they were teammates last season at Salem, Va., in the Class A Atlantic Coast League. Evans, who played at the University of South Carolina, said Beets has helped him.

"Coach Beets is great guy and I can tell you he knows baseball," Evans said. "He could hold his own with anyone, and I know because I've played big-time college ball. He could coach a major college program anywhere."

But Beets has been content at Ridgewood. The coach, in his 11th year, was 22-9 last season and in 1991 came within a game of the state final four behind Doorneweerd's pitching.

Doorneweerd, now 21, was taken in the second round of the June 1991 draft by the Pirates. He came to Beets this winter to get help with his control, which he said has held him back in the minors.

"It's been rough," Doorneweerd said of his pro career. "Things are a lot different. I just haven't been in synch and I haven't been throwing the ball real well."

He and Evans will report to the Pirates camp in Bradenton today, hoping that the time he spent at his old school will help.

"I've got to get my change-up over for strikes, and that's what I've been working on," Doorneweerd said. "I don't think anyone was pleased by my performance last year, but I know the Pirates still consider me a prospect. Every year is crucial for me now."

Linskey, a 27-year-old Baltimore native, is a top pitching prospect in the San Diego Padres organization. He'll report to Scottsdale, Ariz., for camp this week and expects to be assigned the Triple-A Las Vegas Stars this season.

He also had praise for Ridgewood's program.

"It's just like spring training here," said Linskey, who joined relatives in New Port Richey last year and also works out at Gulf High. "And the high school kids are very accommodating to us. We help each other."

Linskey said he and Doorneweerd would like to help West Pasco youth league players by starting an annual camp at Ridgewood to begin next October.

"There's a real need for instruction," Linskey said, "and we just want to give something back."

Evans, meanwhile, is so taken with the area that he plans to build a home here. "It's a great place to live and a great place for baseball. I plan on working out at Ridgewood as long as coach Beets will have me."