Cuban Prospect Diaz In Springfield

Published 04/03 2014 08:23PM

Updated 04/03 2014 08:26PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.--In the last ten years of Springfield Cardinals baseball, future St. Louis stars have passed through Hammons Field, from Matt Carpenter, to Matt Adams to Carlos Martinez.

This year features another star with big upside, cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz.

How much would you be willing to give up to play the game you love?

For Aledmys Diaz the price is high.

He left his native Cuba nearly two years ago and hasn't seen his family or homeland since.

And he can never go back.

"No, right now he can't. But his family supports him," said Aledmys Diaz.

Luis Morales is translating for us and is helping Diaz transition into the Cardinals minor league system.

"Right now he's concentrating on playing ball in the states. That's his goal right now."

Diaz started playing baseball at six in Santa Clara, Cuba.

He broke into their top level of pro ball at 17.

While playing for the Cuban National team in 2012, Diaz defected.

For the next 18 months, Diaz could not play the game he loves.

He served a MLB suspension for falsifying his age and had to establish residency in Mexico.

Diaz: "It's been very hard not playing every day. But he's ready and confident. The time is now to perform. He's ready for it."

Diaz hit 315 with 12 homers in his last season in Cuba's Serie Nacional.

But was two years ago.

In February, St. Louis rolled the dice, giving Diaz a four-year eight million dollar contract and sent him to Springfield.

"We like him. We signed him and put the investment in him," said Springfield manager Mike Shildt.  "He's done nothing to disappoint in the least. He's come out and plays the game the right way."

Baseball pundits say Diaz' raw skills remind them of another shortstop prospect New York Yankee Derek Jeter.

Diaz: "For him it's a privilege to be in the same sentence as him. He still thinks he needs to learn a lot to be at that level. And that's what he's here for."

Mike Shildt told me the Cards will ease Diaz into competition, sitting out the first few games then playing DH before moving into the field.

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