When signing a young player from an international market, you never really know what you will get. They haven’t gotten a lot of fanfare like most of the players that come straight from the draft out of college and high school. Most fans do not hear much about international ballplayers until years later if they are lucky to establish themselves as legit prospects as they advance through the minor league system.
So understanding the journey that these players face is a bit difficult to comprehend, but very interesting when they share their own unique stories. Coming from another country, not knowing the language and trying to adapt to a new culture is always the most difficult part of their journey, but playing baseball is the easy part.
When I asked Mets outfield prospect Vicente Lupo, if it was an easy transition to adapt to a new culture, he said, “It was not difficult to adapt to the United States, but like everything else, it’s a process of adaptation, it’s the culture and language among many other things that are different.”
Lupo also continued to share about his family and being away from them for so long and how that also is a part of the transitioning and accepting of following his dreams, “I miss my family at times, but when I chose to play professional baseball, I knew it would be one of the sacrifices I had to make.”
The Mets signed Lupo at the age of 16 out of his native land of Venezuela in July, 2010. He was then sent to the Dominican Summer League and in 49 games he batted .197, with 21 runs, 7 doubles, 5 home runs in a 132 at bats. In 2012, he remained in the DSL and in 65 games he batted .343, 58 runs, 18 doubles, 3 triples, 10 home runs, 45 RBI’s, .500 OBP, and .608 SLG in 204 at bats. Clearly the power hitting outfielder showed what the Mets saw in him with a great second season in pro ball. But in 2013, he would take a step backward, but it was mostly due to an injury he suffered to his left wrist which limited him to only 37 games. In that span, he batted .220, with 13 runs, 4 home runs in 109 at bats.
Lupo has a lot of talent and it showed in 2012. The next step is to prove that he can produce in 2014 as he has shown prior to his injury.
This interview was originally conducted in Spanish, but I translated it for publication on MMO. Another talented athlete for the fans to get to know:
David – While growing up in Caracas, Venezuela; who introduced you to the game of baseball?
Vicente - I was 10 years old when my dad told me, “Son do you want to play baseball,” and I said yes and I was very happy. Today I thank God because I am in professional baseball, but the thought from my parents was to play baseball and to grow healthy.
David – Who was your favorite player growing up and did you model your game after him?
Vicente – Really, I always like to be a home run hitter and hit the ball hard. I liked how Magglio Ordonez played and he was my favorite player.
David – Which part of your game do you feel is your strongest offensively; hitting for average or hitting for power?
Vicente - I have power and I know I can hit the ball hard, but it depends on the situation of the game and it’s the situation I want to be in, like moving a runner over by hitting the ball or with a sacrifice fly.
David – Which position in the outfield do you prefer to play?
Vicente - I like to play outfield, I don’t have a favorite position, but I have always liked Center Field.
David – Is there anything in your approach to the game that you feel you need to improve on?
Vicente - Since I started playing professional baseball, I have been making changes and improving. I think I should continue to work on all the areas because we can never stop learning.
David – Do you feel you are ready to make the jump to Brooklyn or beyond?
Vicente – I feel confident that I can play where ever they send me, but they will know where I need to be and where ever they send me to play I want to do the best possible.
David – Do you have a regular workout routine or do you follow the organizations workout regimen?
Vicente – Before I start the daily workout that the Mets indicate during the season, I have a specific routine, and it’s what gives me confidence and it helps me to feel good and in shape every day.
David – Do you want to share anything with the Mets fans?
Vicente – I send a great hello to all the fans and many thanks for the huge support. I hope they remain that way always.
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MMO wants to thank Vicente for taking the time to talk with us and share a little but about his journey. Lupo is another player in the line of many I have chatted with that are just living out their dream of one day playing on the biggest baseball stage in the world. I am thankful that they would allow me to share their stories with the great Mets fans that read this site. Vicente Lupo is another great talent that the Mets were lucky to get their hands on and from what I continue to see, he isn’t alone.
(Photo Credit: Bryan Green)