The fate of Luis’s family rested on his next three teenage years, he could bring fortune to his family or leave them in poverty’s stronghold. Luis Mendez lived in San Pedro de Macoris the capital of the Dominican Republic. Many great baseball players have come out of the Dominican Republic such as Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, and Robinson Cano. As well as some of Major League Baseball’s most promising prospects featuring Miguel Sano, Starlin Castro, and Yordano Ventura. Luis was good friends with Miguel who is a little bit older. Mendez father Alberto bought their humble house, stored right on the side of their house were two BICYCLES, the family’s only mode of transportation. Alberto was once a one of the top INTERNATIONAL prospects, but he lied about his age and was never given an MLB contract. After helping his mother with his household chores, Luis goes out to the alley with his buddies to play a game similar to baseball known in the Dominican Republic as “vitilla”. “Vitilla” is played with a tree branch, to be used as a bat, and a bottle cap which is used as a ball. Occasionally, scouts will come out to the street to observe the talent and possibly end up inviting the top players to their camps which they SUPERVISE. The scouts who run the camp are often in CONTACT with professional baseball scouts from the MLB. Today, when Luis went out to play, he noticed a scout standing nearby. His friend Jose rushed over to him “Luis, look at that scout over there. Go INTRODUCE yourself. Are you nervous?” Luis laughed, he was not nervous. Luis knew if the scout really wanted him at the camp he would come up to him himself. The scouts look for a good COMBINATION of players that can hit and play the field. Now was the time for Luis to go up to bat, the previous inning he had made a great catch in left field. Luis walked up to the plate NONCHALANTLY showing off his swagger. He stood in his UNCONVENTIONAL batting stance and DEMOLISHED the bottle cap sending it soaring over everyone’s head. This was pretty COMMON for Luis. After the game, the scout walked over to Luis, “Let’s have a talk.”
“Hey buddy, allow me to introduce myself, my name is Pablo Martinez. I have been watching you play recently and you are one good ballplayer. What do you say we go talk to your parents about having you come over to my camp, the camp is just five miles outside of town,” Luis was thrilled, he had always dreamed of the moment a real professional scout would come up to him after watching him play and invite him to a camp.
“Sounds great,” said Luis. He was ecstatic. Pablo gave Luis a ride back to his house in his luxurious Mercedes-Benz. “One day, I hope to be making the big money in the big leagues, so I can be driving a sweet ride like this,” Pablo laughs.
“Oh son, if you come to my camp I can assure you will gain exposure from the American scouts.” Pablo and Luis hopped out of the car. As they walked to the door step, mama opens the door.
“Luis, who is your friend?”
“Ah, mama this is Señor Martinez, he is a scout and was wondering if I would be interested in attending his camp,” a huge smile grew on mama’s face.
“Please señor come in, have something to eat,” proclaimed mama. Luis, mama, Papa Alberto, and Pablo have a nice conversation. Mama agrees to send Luis to camp.
“Thank you so much mama, you will not regret this! I am going to pack my bags and I will be on my way,” Luis ran to his room. He packed his most IMPORTANT things shirts, pants, socks, BIBLE, and his Boston Red Sox ballcap, his favorite professional team. Before he left, he bid farewell to mama, Papa Alberto, his brother Juan Julio, and his grandmother, Abuela Cecilia. When Luis got in Pablo’s car to head to the camp, Pablo started talking.
“Now señor, it is time for you to mature, I PREDICT you will be noticed by some Major League teams within the next year. Kids will come up to you, asking for an AUTOGRAPH. Every time you go out there to play, think of it as they are watching you, think about it as an AUDITION.” These words inspired Luis, on the dashboard of Pablo’s car sat a newspaper. Luis picked it up, the picture on the front page was CAPTIONED ‘Alejandro Gregorio, one of the top Dominican prospects, is just the latest to sign a professional contract as the Tampa Bay Rays of the MLB signed him to a 3 Million Dollar deal Monday, REPORTS Ricardo Pizzaro.’ “See that boy right there,” as Pablo pointed to his picture on the front page “he went to my camp, and you, you play just like him. The only difference between the two of you is that he is more of a BRAGGART.” As the men pulled up to the camp they were greeted by a boy, who appeared to be the same age as Luis, wearing an ice pack. “Luis, this is Edwin Humberto, he is another fine young ballplayer and will be your roommate here at camp.”
“Nice to meet you,” greeted Luis, “what happened to your leg?”
“As to you,” responded Edwin, “I have a juvenile ARTHRITIS which makes it tough to always be active, but as well as be an aspiring baseball star, I also yearn to be a famous MUSICIAN.”
“Oh that’s awesome,” commented Luis.
“Well boys, it has been a long day, I think it is time to head over to the dorms, and catch some rest. Edwin please familiarize Luis with the camp, otherwise, I will see you boys tomorrow morning! Good Night!
A loud voice emerged from the hallway “Levantarse, Levantarse!” Wake up, Luis looked over at his clock, it was only five o’clock! Luis whispered to Edwin.
“Bsssh Edwin, are we supposed to wake up? It is only five in the morning!”
“Oh yes amigo, we start working hard bright and early.” The boys got dressed and walked downstairs across the camp to have breakfast. When the boys got to the dining area, they served themselves eggs and chorizo. When the one hundred-some boys had all sat down, Señor Martinez spoke into the MICROPHONE.
“Good morning boys! I hope you all slept well! I want to take some time to introduce our newest players to the camp. Boys please stand up when I call your name, so the rest of the boys can see who you are. Tito Domingo, a Right Fielder from La Romana, Christiano Flores, a First Baseman from Santiago, and last, but certainly not least, the big slugger Luis Mendez, a Left Fielder from right here in San Pedro de Macoris.”
“That Flores hombre is no good,” said Edwin. “He TRANSFERRED over from another camp in Santiago after he was SUSPENDED for pulling a gun on a pitcher who threw one inside on him.” Christiano Flores had not even said one word, and had already instilled fear in Luis. For the rest of breakfast, the campers REVIEWED VIDEO from the great Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson was REFERRED to as Shoeless Joe because he took off his shoes during a game because his new cleats were giving him blisters.
“Shoeless Joe is a great player to model your game after, EXCEPT for the fact he bet against his own team making him a cheater.” said Señor Martinez. “Now boys, as you go back to your rooms to change into your practice uniforms, think about the type of player you want to be.”
When Luis and Edwin returned to their room Luis noticed a PHOTOGRAPH of the World Series trophy, and decided that a World Series Champion is the type of player he wanted to be. The boys all put on the same white practice pants, the shirt however, DEPENDED on your skill level. White shirts for the least skilled players, Black for the advanced players, and most prestigious of all, red for the superstars of the camp. To earn a red shirt, you not only needed to be the hardest worker, but also earn the RESPECT of the other campers. The ceremony for players receiving new shirts was at the end of the week. Edwin put on a red shirt, as he was one of the best pitchers in the camp. To start, Luis was given a black shirt because Señor Martinez knew he was very good, but wanted to make him work for that red shirt.
The first thing Luis did was go to the batting cages with Christiano, Tito, and Señor Martinez. At the cages, the new boys were able to test bat prototypes, to see which ones they would like to have in their arsenal for the camp. Luis decided he liked the Rawlings Bat modeled from Joe Mauer, an All-Star Catcher for Minnesota Twins. Luis was now ready to become the best player the camp had ever seen.
After picking out their bats, Señor Martinez measured the new players height and weight. Luis was a big strong young man, weighing in at an intimidating 210 POUNDS, only to be belittled by Christiano’s 250. Christiano snickered , “Boy, you better put some more meat on those bones if you want to be able to compete with a guy like me.”
“We will see how it plays out on the field,” responded Luis. This was not the REACTION Christiano had anticipated. It was hard for Señor Martinez to tell who was a better ballplayer. The boys had been at camp for less than a week, but everyone knew they were the real deal. It was difficult to compare the boys based on mechanics since Luis was a right-handed hitter, and Christiano was a left-handed hitter, not particularly uncommon for first basemen. However, Christiano was AMPHIBIOUS and was also convinced that he could even hit better than Luis on the right side of the plate.
Now, it was time to play some live baseball. Five games were played at a time, based on skill level. Luis was placed on the “A” field. Señor Martinez read off the teams, Christiano and Tito were put on the same team, and Edwin was put on Luis’s team a BENEFICIAL to Luis’s chance of winning the game. Christiano’s team was up to bat first. When Christiano was up to the plate, Edwin threw a couple really nice pitches. The last pitch zoomed by Christiano, strikeout! Luis’s team was now up to bat. Luis walked up to the plate a couple batters later, he stared into the pitcher’s eyes. The pitcher was sporting a Seattle Mariner’s hat, one of the most POPULAR favorite major league teams among the kids at the camp. Luis took a swing at the first pitch, strike! The next pitch had a funky bend, but curved into the strike zone for strike two. On the third pitch, Luis had a MAGNIFICENT hit way out past Tito in Right Field, his teammates cheered. Christiano screamed at Tito to get the ball in. Tito threw the ball, but it had no chance of reaching the infield in enough time to get Luis out at third, when all of a sudden a scream erupted from right field. Everyone looked out to see Tito grabbing one of his arms as he winced in pain. The camp ORTHOPEDIC rushed out to Tito, followed by Señor Martinez. “What is wrong?”, said Señor Martinez.
“He appears to have a DISLOCATED shoulder, we need to get him to the LOCAL hospital immediately.”
Luis walked over to Tito as the paramedics placed him on a stretcher. Luis could tell Tito was in a lot of pain by the way he was HYPERVENTILATING. “Stay strong, buddy,” Luis said to Tito as he was put into the ambulance. Señor Martinez approached Luis.“Hey, nice hit buddy!” congratulating Luis on his wonderful hit. Luis shook his head, and as words were about to slip out of Luis’s mouth, commotion broke out across the field. There was an ALTERCATION between Christiano, unsurprisingly, and the Catcher on Luis’s team Matteo Cruz. Christiano was such a LUNATIC The fight was broken up by players from both teams. Señor Martinez barked, “Flores, in my office right now!”
The game had been called off, Luis and Edwin packed up their bats and gloves, and headed back towards the dormitory, disgusted with Christiano. There was a big storm coming, so all baseball activities at the camp were cancelled for the day. The boys hungout in their room, and had a nice conversation, when there was a knock at the door, “Come in,” said Edwin, it was Señor Martinez. “Hola AMIGOS, I came here to tell you that I had a talk with Christiano, and he will be leaving camp. I am just unable to deal with his CHRONIC poor behavior.” The boys were stunned. “You know what that means don’t you?”, Señor Martinez directed at Luis, as the boy shook his head. “An available red shirt! Luis, you have already impressed me in the short time you have been here, and you deserve a red shirt.”, Luis was astonished.
“Wow, thank you so much,” said Luis.
“My pleasure, you have earned it,” responded Señor Martinez. “I also wanted to tell you boys that a scout has been watching camp, and he wanted me to inform you boys that you have both been invited to a showcase event tomorrow. I will take you two and Brayan Fernandez, the 2nd Basemen, tomorrow morning. So, rest up you boys got a big day tomorrow.” When Señor Martinez left the room the boys erupted in excitement, they had a chance to make an impression on some MLB scouts tomorrow. They decided they would go to bed now, since they had an early morning, however, Luis could not fall asleep, he was so excited.
The next morning the boys gathered up all of there stuff and, hopped into Señor Martinez’s Mercedes-Benz. “Alright, men, today you boys will be playing against the best AMATEUR baseball players on the island. Today, you will see the most DYNAMIC hitters, STELLAR fielders, and baserunners with SUPERSONIC speed. If you want to be RECOGNIZED, it is VITAL that you boys go out there and play your best. Good Luck!” Señor Martinez pulled into the parking lot, a banner hung over the field reading ‘Dominican Republic Summer Showcase’. Anxiety engulfed Luis.
As the boys walked to the field, they passed by numerous tents. Each tent showed the logo of its respective Major League team. The tents were filled by scouts from the organizations, and in some cases even some old players. As Señor Martinez led the boys through the camp, he stopped and began conversing with a man outside the Chicago Cubs tent, then he said, “Boys, I want to introduce you to my good friend,”, before he could finish the sentence, Luis blurted
The man laughed. “Mr. Sosa is from right here on the island just like you guys. He played for a couple different teams during his major league career, but he spent his PRIME with the Chicago Cubs,” Señor Martinez explained. Sammy Sosa was one of Luis’s all-time favorite players.
“Play your heart out today boys! You will have many opportunites to impress many different Major League scouts. I will give you a few tips on how to impress the scouts. First off, the group of you here today that will make the Major Leagues is EXCLUSIVE. The most important ATTRIBUTES for players yearning to be SELECTED are obviously your hitting and fielding ability, and in your case Edwin, velocity and accuracy PLUS size. However, everyone at this showcase excels in each of those categories. What separates the great players from the MEDIOCRE players the INTANGIBLES. As much as your ability to hit and field matters, so does your composure, attention to detail, ego, confidence, and ability to get along with teammates,” said Sammy.
Luis was fortunate, he was only a SOPHOMORE in High School, and was very close to mastering English, which would be a significant help if he could make it to the Major Leagues. Luis did not need a TRANSLATOR to complicate things, all he had to worry about was going out there and playing his best, and for that he was GRATEFUL. Then an announcement came over the PA “Attention all players and coaches, please report to the main field, so we can get the event underway,” it was time, Luis was ready to show the scouts what he had.
Before the game started the event directors called for a BRIEF meeting on the field. The opposing team stood on the first base line, and Luis’s team on the third base line. Luis, Edwin, and Brayan were all on the same team for today’s game. Before the lineups were announced the directors went over the rules for the event, clarify all CONFUSION, and reassured all players and coaches were aware of the POLICY on the use of ILLEGAL substances like Pine Tar that would give pitchers any advantage. Now it was time for the lineups to be announced “Hitting fourth for the Red team Left Fielder LUIS MENDEZ,” the crowd gave an applause as Luis took a step forward and raised his right hand just as he had seen the players who had INSPIRED him do when their name was called.
Luis’s team was up to bat first. As the first hitters went up to the plate, Luis could not keep his focus he was thinking about the NUMEROUS scouts who were all watching him today. “Mendez! Get in the on-deck circle!”, the manager called. The team’s Center Fielder had just got doubled with one out. The next hitter came to the plate the opposing catcher gave his pitcher a sign, which the pitcher REFUSED, the catcher gave him another one, the pitcher nodded.
When the ball was about to cross home plate, “Whack!”, the batter rocketed a line drive into right center field, an amazing playing only to be combated with a spectacular ACROBATIC catch from the Right Fielder. However, the runner was able to tag up to third base. Luis walked up to the plate with two outs and a runner on third, who he knew he had to drive in. He knew all eyes were on him, there was no need for batting gloves since the PERSPIRATION from his hands gave him a good enough grip. The pitcher threw two inside pitched to Luis in attempt to get him UNCOMFORTABLE. The next pitch came, Luis, thinking it would be another inside pitch, let it go, strike one. He whiffed at the next pitch. Luis now was only one strike away from ending the inning, the next one seemed to move in slow motion towards home plate, WHACK!
BOCA CHICA, Dominican Republic -It's an early January morning at the Yankees academy in the Dominican Republic. In a…www.baseballamerica.com
The ball landed way past the left field fence! As Luis rounded the bases, he saw his teammates, some of which were very ANIMATED jumping up and down in the dugotut. He was congratulated when he walked in the dugout, but the next hitter flew out after the first pitch, it was now time for Luis and his teammates to take the field. Edwin was on the mound, and Luis was in Left Field. The first hitter, Francisco Alvarez came up to the plate, he was considered one of the best hitters on the island, edwin just laughed though, he thought all of Francisco’s accessories were RIDICULOUS. He doubled into right field. Edwin walked the next hitter. Now, there was runners on first and second with nobody out. Edwin’s next pitch got away from from the catcher, and the runners advanced to second and third, still, no outs. The manager and catcher walked out to the mound to calm Edwin down who had been having a fairly unimpressive performance so far. With a 1–0 count the batter made solid CONTACT and drove the next pitch into left field. It was now time for Luis to show off his fielding abilities. The ball was coming DIRECTLY at him, he had to dive. Luis was sprung himself forward and rolled over, MIRACULOUSLY, he was able to SECURE the ball in his mitt. However, the runner on third was tagging up, Luis got up and launched the ball to the catcher, the throw was a rope and the catcher applied the tag to save the run. What an incredible play by Luis! Edwin acknowledged Luis’s catch by GESTURING with his right hand. That play FORTIFIED his chances of getting a Major League contract. The whole crowd was applauding him. As he looked over, he even saw the LEGENDARY Manny Ramirez giving him a hand. Luis was ready to be the next baseball SENSATION.
Luis would go up to the PLATE two more times before the FINAL inning, and the last chance to make an impression. He hit a double in his second at-bat followed by a 3-run homerun. Luis was now due up to bat in the last inning, the nervousness had worn off, his team had a comfortable lead, and he was CONSCIOUS a big league deal should be coming his way. The pitcher’s offering was hit PATHETICALLY and resulted in a ground out to the pitcher, but Luis did not let the mistake diminish his CONFIDENCE. His STELLAR hitting earlier in the game should have been ATTRACTIVE enough to the MLB scouts. At the conclusion of the game, the two teams shook hands, there was a certainly a lot of MLB caliber talent imminent. Luis walked over to a young fan in the stands wearing a St. Louis Cardinal’s hat, “Mr. Mendez, I admire the way you play baseball, I want to be just like you some day, could I have an AUTOGRAPH?”
“Sure thing, buddy.” Luis was honored, he had quickly gome from wanting to be like his role models, to being a role model.
“Mr. Mendez,” a manly voice boomed behind him, stunning Luis, “could you sign one more?” Luis was very confused, grown men didn’t usually ask for autographs. “Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Wally Blackman from the Los Angeles Dodgers,” the man said as he showed Luis a PHOTOGRAPH of the Dodgers logo, the city of Los Angeles, and famous Dodger greats like Jackie Robinson and Jose Canseco, “We are very impressed with your baseball talent and potential. How would you feel about coming to America and becoming a Dodger, eh?” A wide smile spanned across Luis’s face.
“Thank you, sir. You mean a,” Luis was at a loss of words, “You mean a Major League CONTRACT.”
“That’s what this is, ain’t it?”, said the Wally as he waved a piece of paper in the air. Luis had reached the goal of all young players on the island, the Major Leagues.