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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pichardo Hopes to Follow His Father to MLB

Jim Ecker        
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Christopher Pichardo wants to play in the major leagues, just like his father did for 10 years with the Kansas City Royals, Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros. That's why he came all the way from the Dominican Republic to participate in the 2010 Spring Top Prospect Showcase at Perfect Game Field in Cedar Rapids on Saturday.

Pichardo, just 16 years old, left his home in Santiago in the Dominican Republic and flew to Miami on the first leg of his journey on Thursday morning. Then he flew from Miami to Chicago, then finished the long trip with a flight from Chicago into Cedar Rapids. He and his father, Hipolito Pichardo, made the entire trip in one day and arrived late Thursday night.

"It was good," Christopher said about the journey, speaking through his Spanish/English interpreter and agent, Charisse Espinosa-Dash.

And how does he feel about being here?

"Happy. Very, very happy," he said in Spanish.

Even though Pichardo is only 16 and just a sophomore in high school, he's old enough to sign a pro contract with a major league team this summer under Dominican rules. That's why he already has an agent and why he's in Iowa this weekend.

"That's his purpose. That's why he's here. That's why he's playing," said Espinosa-Dash, who is from New Jersey and works for the Draft Pix Sports Agency.

Pichardo is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound third baseman. He drove the ball well in batting practice and looked good in the field, with a strong arm. In short, he looked like a ballplayer. He hopes the pro scouts agree.

Hipolito Pichardo sat in the stands at Perfect Game Field on Saturday, wearing a Perfect Game sweatshirt and Perfect Game cap, watching his son, just like many of the other parents, except that he came a lot farther to do it.

"He says that he wants to thank Perfect Game for the invite to be part of the Perfect Game showcase," said Espinosa-Dash, translating for the father as well.

Hipolito Pichardo compiled a 50-44 record with a 4.44 ERA during his 10 years in the Major Leagues. Pichardo, 41, reached the majors in 1992 with the Royals and was there for eight years, although he missed the 1999 campaign with elbow surgery. He was 9-6 with a 3.95 ERA as a rookie in 24 starts and pitched a one-hit shutout against Boston.

One of his teammates in Kansas City was Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett. "A great person. Very professional. He's a great man," Pichardo remarked.

Pichardo earned some hefty paychecks in the Major Leagues. He made $2,150,000 with the Royals in 1998 and was paid $2,625,000 in 1999. All told, he made $9,178,500 during his career, according to a baseball web site.

"He said his pride would be in his son signing and becoming a big leaguer," Espinosa-Dash related. "His son's dream is to be in the big leagues and to play baseball, and he's very happy that his son has decided to take this route. He's proud."

Christopher Pichardo was born in Kansas City when his father was playing for the Royals, so he's already familiar with major league stadiums and major league clubhouses. He's proud of what his father accomplished in pro ball.

"It means a lot to him," Espinosa-Dash said. "Yeah, he's very proud."

Pichardo would like to make it back to a major league clubhouse on his own some day. He's had workouts with major league scouts in the Dominican Republic, but the Spring Showcase in Cedar Rapids is his first appearance at an event in the United States.

"He thinks he's done well," Espinosa-Dash remarked.

Pichardo would like to follow his father's footsteps to the big leagues.

"That's his dream, and he will be going after his dream," Hipolito Pichardo said.
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