First full day as pro a big hit for Alvarez
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Just about 9:30 a.m. yesterday stood the Pirates' version of The Six Million Dollar Man, Pedro Alvarez, at his third base position on his first full day of work. Knees bent, glove hand extended, showing impeccable fielding posture as a baseball -- hit by a coach off a fungo bat -- zipped through the infield grass on a path directly at him.
The grounder, just the third one Alvarez faced as a professional, unexpectedly caromed high, and hit him square on the cheek.
The sound was unmistakable.
He reached up, touched his face, looked to the cloudy sky and shook a few cobwebs out before answering to the coaches "I'm fine" and continued on as if nothing happened.
"I think it was a nice welcome to professional baseball," Pirates director of player development Kyle Stark said light-heartedly with a chuckle.
Yeah, some welcome, huh Pedro?
"I'm still here," Alvarez said with a laugh a few hours afterward, sporting a nickel-sized red mark on his cheek. "I guess it really was my welcome to pro ball."
He then smiled broadly and said, "I'm still here, though. It didn't make me go home."
If anything, it just served to further settle him in, get his feet more firmly underneath him as he continues the process of learning how to be a pro.
Just before taking that bad hop, Alvarez had his initial turn in batting practice, showing a few glimpses as to why there was so much scuttlebutt about what he can do with a bat.
It took just four swings for him to turn a pitch around and send it the other way, screaming off the left-center field fence.
And the crowd of one -- an older man holding a newspaper story written about Alvarez, which the No. 2 overall draft pick would later sign for him -- got the real treat a couple strokes after the gap shot.
The power everyone spoke of perked up, when Alvarez hit a prodigious, no-doubter over the fence in right-center that travelled onto the property of an adjacent golf course.
"When you start something, you kind of have the butterflies a little bit and I did for a little while," Alvarez said. "But I think I did a pretty good job of adjusting and put up some good swings."
It seems even his contemporaries are a bit enamored with Alvarez, as when he took his first cuts in batting practice, a few heads supposed to be entrenched in their session on a nearby field turned and focused their attention on the left-hander with the lofty pedigree.
"It is the nature of the beast," Stark explained. "For guys to not recognize that there are clear differences, I think that would be naive. That is the nature of baseball. When we look out on a big league field, there are all-stars and there are guys that are fighting for their lives."
Alvarez, obviously, doesn't fall into the latter group, but did, however, experience a bit of what it felt like to be a "new kid" yesterday.
He equated his first day as a professional baseball player to when he was a college freshman at Vanderbilt.
"It feels like I am starting all over," he said. "I don't know any of these guys and I have to get to know them. But, I thought the first day went well, definitely. I thought it was great."
Yes, and he even got a souvenir to remember it by -- right there on his right cheek.
First Published September 30, 2008 12:00 am