NORMAL -- Normal CornBelters pitching coach Brooks Carey's time watching Arizona Winter League action has resulted in five signings for the team's training camp roster.
Former Illinois State catcher Gabe DeMarco, pitchers Kevin Patterson and Josh Hildebrand and outfielders Victor Valdez and Chris Brown have signed with the CornBelters.
DeMarco batted .208 in 53 at-bats for ISU last spring. He then posted a .281 average in 11 games with St. George of the Golden Baseball League.
"This catcher caught my eye the first day of camp," Carey said. "He kept showing me every day that he has a chance to be a very good player."
A Wheaton native, Valdez set Webster University records for home runs (16) and RBIs (70) last spring while batting .385 and was an all-Central Region selection.
"Victor was the best outfield prospect at the Arizona Winter League," said Carey. "He put up huge numbers in college."
Brown played briefly with St. George in 2010 and batted .211.
"Chris has tremendous upside," Carey said. "He's a big, powerful guy who does a lot of things well on the baseball field."
A Rockford native like DeMarco, Patterson is a left-hander from Rockford College who had a 1.15 ERA in 33 Arizona Winter League innings.
"Kevin put up the best numbers of any pitcher in this Winter League," said Carey. "He's another local kid who should contribute to our season."
Carey felt Hildebrand, a right-hander from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, also was among the top five pitchers in Arizona. "He is a young guy who already knows how to pitch," Carey said.
The Normal pitching coach believes the CornBelters will begin spring training in May with a roster "twice as strong as we had coming into camp last year. I think we've upgraded our lineup and our pitching."