Jesus Flores can't make it to this week's caravan, but he has been pretty busy this offseason. The catcher spent the winter working out and rehabbing his shoulder in Miami. He expects to resume baseball activities next month and come back healthy, strong and ready for a productive 2010 season.
Flores has been plagued by unfortunate injuries in recent seasons. His first big setback occurred in September of '08 following a dangerous collision with Chase Utley. Though his ankle was ready to go for 2009, a shoulder injury put him on the disabled list in May. After attempting a comeback in September, Flores was shut down and sent to Dr. James Andrews for labrum surgery.
"I never thought that something like that was going to happen to me especially [after] a good start to the season," Flores said of his most recent injury.
"It was hard to understand that injury is part of the game, and it can happen at any time," especially behind the plate where collisions, foul tips, wild pitches, breaking bats and a host of other potentially dangerous moments threaten the catcher's health.
"The injuries in the last two years of my career have been very challenging, mentally and physically," Flores admitted.
"By getting through those challenges, I feel like a stronger player with the same optimistic outlook that I had before. I will continue working harder and with God's help everything will be okay. I like to live in the present and prepare for the future, and use the past as a learning experience."
Another important learning experience for the young catcher will be playing and practicing with Pudge Rodriguez, the 14 time All Star catcher who Flores often lists as his favorite player while growing up. He's eager to start working with his baseball hero this spring.
"I'm willing to grow, and willing to learn, especially from a player that I've admired since the first day I started catch," he said.
But, Rodriguez isn't the only person who has inspired Flores. Through it all, he's counted on his family to keep him positive. That's part of the reason Flores takes these challenges in stride. Though they rarely get to watch him play, but he is hopeful that his parents and two younger brothers will be able to watch more Nationals games sometime soon.
"My parents are really supportive; they are the ones that encouraged me to pursue this career," he said. "We are very humble and very close."
Flores will visit with them one more time while picking up his work visa before reporting to Viera for spring training. And though that trip will prevent him from participating in this year's caravan, Flores is really looking forward to interacting with fans again soon.
"I feel very sad about it but at the same time, very happy because the date for spring training is very close and I'll be able to return to seeing fans after missing so much time off the field," he said.