“It’s been great. This is my first time in Florida,” Lebron said. “I’m coming down here trying to find a job. I want to play.”
Lebron is a 21-year-old right-hander from the Bronx who wants to play professional baseball. He pitched briefly for a Chicago Cubs affiliate in the Dominican Summer League in 2008, but was released. Now he’s back, he’s in shape and he’s looking for work.
He was at Terry Park Jan. 8-9 with 19-year-old shortstop Rafael Arias-Medina from the Dominican Republic and Alex Martinez from New York City, who is looking after the young free agents’ affairs.
Martinez was president of the Inwood-Manhattan Little League in New York City for 10 years but recently stepped down to take the position of Vice President of Community Affairs. He has been working with young players in New York for several years, and started hosting an exchange program with players from the Dominican Republic.
“We’re trying to develop kids and give them an opportunity,” Martinez said. “It’s one of those things that we’re trying to work for the future where we have an exchange type of program where they work out in the Dominican Republic for a couple of weeks, come back, and we try to get them showcased.”
The Perfect Game World Showcase was a logical choice to exhibit the talents of Lebron and Arias-Medina in front of professional scouts.
“Basically, we’ve come to Perfect Game to try to get them signed (with) an MLB team,” Martinez said. “Jesse has been pitching for awhile and he throws in the 90s and I think he’s one of the premier pitchers in New York City.”
Arias-Medina is a 19-year-old shortstop from the Domincan Republic who was issued a visa to be at the World Showcase. He was impressive during the early workout sessions with a 6.78-second 60-yard dash and a glove-popping 91mph throw across the infield.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is get him signed here because (in the Dominican) there is a lot of things going on with the signing of ballplayers. Everybody wants a cut. We’re trying to get him signed because he needs to go to the next level, same as Jesse.
“We came to the Perfect Game so they can showcase their talent and let the teams see them,” Martinez said, adding they plan on staying in Florida through Jan. 14 with the hope both players can do individual workouts for MLB scouts and maybe even sign a contract on the spot.
Although no contracts had been offered by early Sunday afternoon, Martinez said the trip has been a success.
“We got the eyes, we got the attention, we got the buzz going and now it’s a matter of saying, ‘Hey, let’s workout (and) sign on the dotted line,’” Martinez said. “It’s been very beneficial. Everyone has been very helpful trying to help these guys. It’s good to see high-level baseball … and I think the World (Showcase) is just going to get bigger every year.”
Martinez is planning on personally aiding that growth by bringing more and more players from New York City – some via the Dominican Republic – to Perfect Game events.
“We’ve been talking about the experience here and hopefully bring at least two or three more players every six months, depending on the finances,” he said. “We’re going to be looking for kids from the north that are talented and who are willing to come.