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Lakeview's Cash playing with the best at East Cobb

POSTED: June 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Ralston Cash, 16, poses for a portrait at the baseball field at Lakeview Academy Monday. Cash, who has been playing baseball since he was four years old, now pitches for the prestigious East Cobb Baseball league.

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The decision to play baseball this summer with the East Cobb Astros was a no-brainer for Lakeview Academy’s Ralston Cash. The way he sees it, being selected to one of the most well-known travel baseball teams in the country is a privilege. East Cobb teams have a history of churning out major league talent year after year.

Cash, a Times 2008 All-Area first-team selection, knows he needs to do what he can to get a leg up on every other player clamoring for a big college scholarship or hoping to inch his way up a future draft board. In modern baseball culture, it’s not enough anymore to get noticed just by having a great season with your high school team.

"You have to play outside your high school team to get (the scouts) to come see you play," Cash said. "My goal is to have at least two radar guns for each game (at Lakeview Academy) when I pitch next year."

Cash, a rising junior, singled out the Astros as the program he wanted to play for after watching his friend Brett Armour, and cousin Ethan Martin, a recent first round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers, previously take the field with the Astros.

He was selected through a tryout process to be part of an East Cobb program that has produced 113 players who have broken into the major league ranks in its 20-plus year history. The long list of East Cobb alumni currently on major league rosters includes Micah Owings, Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann, Adam Everett, Jeff Keppinger, Nick Markakis and Stephen Drew, among many others.

"Ralston’s dream has always been to play professional baseball," his mother Sue Cash said.

Playing with a top-notch team comprised of 16-year-old players also caters to major league scouts, who can see more advanced players in a smaller pool of talent. Cash says between 700-800 scouts will see him play in games this summer.

"Ralston is just one of those special baseball players," Lakeview Academy coach Deuce Roark said. "The best thing about getting to play with East Cobb is that they find the best competition."

But playing summer baseball is also an exercise in commitment. The grueling schedule has the Astros playing in 90 games in four different states this summer, including Nebraska, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The Astros are also zig-zagging the state of Georgia with a game this week at Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler Stadium followed by a three-game series at Georgia’s Foley Field.

"Thank God he’s got his driver’s license now," his mother added. "When he gets home he has time to wash his clothes, and then hits the road again."

Cash, who has been clocked by radar guns as high as 89 miles per hour, is finding success this summer with a 3-1 record on the mound, two no decisions and has only allowed two earned runs. He is working exclusively as a pitcher.

The Astros operate on a five-man rotation wiht the four days’ pitchers spending their time working on a system designed to build speed, agility and strength.

"We do a lot of running," Cash said. "And on the third day we throw in the bullpen."

For Cash, another by-product of playing with East Cobb has been the addition of a variation of a fastball to his pitch selection, which includes a two-seam fastball, circle change-up and curveball.

But playing summer baseball isn’t all work. While out of state, the Astros also get to squeeze in some fun along the way.

Last weekend, after a series at the University of Nebraska, Cash’s team got to drive just down the road to Omaha, Neb. to catch a pair of College World Series games, including Georgia’s win against No. 1 Miami, before flying home Sunday night. He said they have also seen the country music mecca of Nashville, Tenn., and will get to play in the 17-and-under BCS World Series July 15-20 on the Boston Red Sox Spring Training field in Fort Myers, Fla.

"They let us have a little fun mixed in too," Cash said.

Cash says the learning experience and exposure he is earning this summer more than compensates for not being able to live the normal teenage life during summer vacation. He’ll spend time on the lake with his friends when the summer is over.



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