They are both young, big, and strong, and the Orioles believe they have bright futures in their organization.
On Jan. 30 the Orioles announced the additions of two international players in 16-year-old third baseman Jomar Reyes (who turned 17 Feb. 20) and 17-year-old first baseman Carlos Diaz.
When I was at spring training in Sarasota, Fla., I had the chance to meet and interview both players with the interpreter help of Felipe Alou Jr., who is in his seventh year as the Orioles’ coordinator of Dominican Operations.
Diaz, who turned 17 on Dec. 16, had his contract purchased from the Mexico City Red Devils with money going to the Red Devils, and Diaz received a portion of the cash as his signing bonus.
The two players were signed by the Orioles’ executive director of international recruiting, Fred Ferreira. In announcing the additions, executive vice president Dan Duquette said, “I think Fred has hit on two potential everyday major league players who can hit in the middle of the lineup.”
Diaz, listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 lbs., is a native of Ensenada, Baja California in Mexico, but his grandfather is from Cuba.
I asked him how he felt about signing with the Orioles.
“It was very exciting,” he said. “Especially after some years of hard work, it was great to get a pro contract. I had followed the team and knew about some of the Latin players in the minor leagues. I knew about Manny Machado. I’m very thankful to Mr. Duquette for this opportunity.”
Diaz said he’s been involved with baseball since a very young age and it was his dream to sign with a major league club.
“I started playing when I was 3 years old,” he said. “Then when other older kids would play, I would be watching the games and asking them for bats to play behind the fence. We actually had a team back home called the Orioles.
“Yes, it was my dream and now the journey starts to become a major league player.”
When the O’s announced these additions, Ferreira compared Diaz to Kendrys Morales because of his “mannerisms,” and said he usually puts on a show in batting practice. “The kid can project a high ceiling ... He’s just a solid player with a big future ahead of him,” Ferreira said.
Diaz agrees that his offense is his strength right now.
“Hitting, my offense I think is my best tool. I just need to work on following the ball and sometimes I fly open,” Diaz said. “Defensively I’d like to work on my lower body to get a little stronger there and play some first base.
“Everything is going good (at spring training). Just putting some hard work into it to try and get better every day. Just been working on everything to get better,.”
As for a big league player he admires, Diaz said that would be someone like him - a lefty batting first baseman and someone he has met.
“Adrian Gonzalez is from the same town,” Diaz said. “I have met him and talked to him a bunch of times, and I have trained with him some in the past. He has helped prepare me for the minor leagues and given me some advice here and there.”
Diaz has played in some minor league exhibition games and he may play for the club’s Gulf Coast League team when play begins in that league in June. Does he have any goals for the 2014 season?
“The goal, the first thing, is to have a good season and stay healthy,” he said. “I want to work hard. The less time spent in the minors, the better. I want to get to the majors.
“There will be a lot of challenges. I left home for this dream. I am going to work hard, stay positive and follow what I am after.”
Despite the language barrier, Diaz seemed to enjoy our 10-minute interview and I enjoyed meeting him. He spoke with emotion when he talked about his family back home in Mexico and the support they have provided him to help him get to this point in his baseball career.
“They are very excited because of all the sacrifices they went through to help me and get me what I need to play this game,” Diaz said. “Sometimes they had to sell stuff to buy me things or send me away for a baseball camp. At times I was away for seven months. Right now they are very excited and hopefully with hard work I can make it and some day my family can watch me on TV.”
Thanks to Alou for his help with the Reyes and Diaz interviews. Click here to see the story on Reyes that was published last week.
Below is a picture of Diaz and Alou.