ANAHEIM, Calif., — Get 'em while they're hot! That's the motto of Big League clubs when they call up young players from the minors. And when Alexi Amarista was summoned to Los Angeles on April 25, the Salt Lake Bee infielder was fully ignited — batting .455 with a 14-game hitting streak.
The next night he doubled in his first at-bat for the Angels, driving in two runs.
In fact, for four years now Amarista has played like a man born to be an Angel.
Before the season began he spoke with the Deseret News about his goals.
"If Angels ever call me," he said then, "it will be a moment of great emotion for me and for my family. My dream is to have my family watch me play Big League ball. Just thinking about it makes me emotional."
Some dreams do come true.
Born in Barcelona, Venezuela, a small town about five hours from Caracas, Alexi inherited a baseball family. His father played baseball, as did his uncle. But it was his grandfather who took the youngster under his wing.
"My grandfather is the one who taught me how to play," he says. "He was a coach and also a player. When I was a little boy he'd take me to some abandoned lot or playing field to practice. It has been his dream to see me play in the Big Leagues. Thankfully, he's still with us. He feels very proud."
Last year, Amarista was brought up to AAA Salt Lake City for the last two weeks of the season. He batted an even .400. After an impressive outing in the Venezuelan Winter League, he was invited to spring training in Arizona as a non-roster player. There, he hit over .300 against Big League pitching and caught the eye of Angel manager Mike Scioscia. The last few days, in fact, Scioscia pulled Amarista and a couple of other young players aside for a "tutorial" in hitting and fielding. In April, when Amarista came out of the blocks for the Bees batting .455, there was no way to keep him down on the farm.
His impressive first game for the Angels was the lead baseball story on ESPN's Sportscenter and — in this era of instant information — it made him an instant sports hero in Venezuela.
Some feel Amarista may even have the skills, at age 22, to put up numbers to rival another Venezuelan icon, Hall of Famer, Luis Aparacio. The White Sox shortstop has been retired for 40 years now, but reverence for him has never ebbed.
"I saw him once up close," says Amarista, "but I've never met him. He's still going strong."
If Amarista keeps learning and growing as much in the future as he has in the past four years, it may well be Aparacio who will be going out of his way to meet the little second baseman who, one day, may become the talk of Caracas.
Mother Nature decided to rule Mothers' Day. Rain forced the Salt Lake Bees game against the Reno Aces Sunday to be postponed. The two teams will play a doubleheader today beginning at 4:35 p.m.