EASLEY—Carlos Correa made national headlines after being drafted by the Huston Astros this year as the No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball Draft, and signing a $4.8 million dollar deal.
The 17-year old Puerto Rican shortstop realized his professional dream earlier this year, but if he had not, he would be in Easley right now competing for the Big League World Series with his fellow teammates.
The fact is, this year’s Puerto Rico squad had 15 players who could have been on the team selected in the first two rounds of the MLB draft, but they still remain one of the favorites to win this year’s tournament.
“In the specific case of Carlos, he is amazing,” said Jaime Munoz, Puerto Rico’s Manager. “He is a guy with a lot of skill inside the game and outside of the park. With the other guys being selected as well, it makes us proud of them, and it makes us hopeful that baseball in Puerto Rico is alive and that we can have guys in the majors for the next four or five years.”
Munoz says his guys have had to overcome plenty of adversity to reach their ultimate goals.
“They’ve worked hard to go in the early rounds,” said Munoz.
Puerto Rico has been nothing short of dominate in the tournament so far this year. Munoz’s squad will put runs on the board in a hurry, but he says he believes his team’s strengths lie on defense.
“This year’s team is more of a defensive team,” said Munoz. “I expect us to be very good on defense, and this year we have one of the best prospects for next year’s draft (Joe Jimenez). Joe is a 6’4” guy with over a 94 mph fastball. He is definitely our best pitcher.”
Joe’s brother, Antonio Jimenez, played in the World Series in 2007, and is currently playing in the Blue Jay’s organization. Munoz coached a Big League World Series championship team a couple of years back, but he says he knows there is still work to do.
“We told them in beginning that if they worked hard, they could be in the best (tournament) that they’ve ever been in,” said Munoz. “They are really happy to be here.”
Munoz can’t help but think back to that moment, however.
“That was the best feeling as a coach,” said Munoz. “It was probably the number one moment (as a coach) in my history. To win the World Series and to have the opportunity to be here is just great because we work very hard with those players in Puerto Rico.”
Building a winning tradition is one thing, but Munoz is also creating professionals. While he hopes to help his players go as far as they can in baseball, the coach says that baseball is not always the top priority.
“The first thing I tell them when they come to my organization is that I want them to become good citizens,” said Munoz. “They have dreams to become professionals and I work very hard with them to see them sign at the professional level. It makes me very proud of them.”