Halfway through that summer, our Sunday team played a practice game against the Dukes Baseball Academy in my home town, El Monte. The El Monte Dukes were the top baseball program in the San Gabriel Valley at that time. Led by future major leaguer and USC star Gabe Alvarez, the Dukes roster was made up of players who knew the game and were the best in the area.
Competeting against tough East LA adults all summer hardened my spirit and I took the mound fearless. I threw hard, and with a slow curveball and changeup, I kept them off balance enough to keep our team in it. I remember having Gabe down 0-2 and throwing him an up and in fastball to move him off the plate... I did have some guts back then! Alas, I missed the spot, left it over the corner and Gabe hit a cruise missile over the fence.
Watching the game were scouts Mark Garcia of the Brewers and Tony Petek of the Dodgers. Tony spoke with me and my father after the game and invited me out to a tryout for their Area Code all star team. I couldn't believe it! The Dodgers were and still are MY TEAM!! And here I am, standing there holding his business card in my hand, listening to him tell me he thinks I could play pro ball.
It became a whirlwind from then on... The UCLA baseball camp, where pitching coach Robin Driezler first told me he "thought I'd play some pro ball somewhere...". Then came the Area Code tryouts. I dominated the competition enough to be chosen as their #2 starter for the tournament. Although I gave up a run, I struck out three batters, pitched two innings and scouts and colleges alike began calling and mailing our house. I played with the Dodgers scout team for the rest of the summer and winter.
In high school, I studied hard. Motivation came with each letter I would get from colleges inviting me to come to their school. I took my SATs and began applying to my top choices. I was accepted to Notre Dame, USC, Pepperdine, and many other choices. As part of my journey here on TeachingBetterBaseball, I will be discussing my decision of turning pro rather than go to college.
I played basketball and baseball, winning MVP honors on both teams. I was selected to all-star teams, all-tournament teams and so on. Next baseball
season in high school, it got a lot easier. Although I was still only 16 when the season started, I had a confidence built in me that lasted the entire season. I went 8-4 with a 1.29 ERA. I dominated the competition enough to be voted league MVP. I turned 17 that May, and I was drafted in the 10th round June 1993 by the Toronto Blue Jays.
That's how I became a pro. Another dream in the making...