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Sunday, June 02, 2013

A slightly different path

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Michael Landestoy knows where's he been, where's he at now and where he wants to be in the future.

The son of former major-leaguer Rafael Landestoy, Michael Landestoy was at the Player Development 5-Plex here this weekend, participating in the Perfect Game National Academic Showcase with 130 other astute prospects. Another 188 prospects were taking part in the PG Sunshine East Showcase, which was running concurrently with the National Academic at the 5-Plex.

Landestoy, a shortstop who was at the showcase with his mother Ana, took a slightly different path here. He was born in Miami, Fla., on Oct. 15, 1994, lived there with his family for the first 13 years of his life and was scheduled to attend Florida Christian High School.

But Rafael, who last played in the big leagues in 1984, accepted a job the New York Mets as their international field coordinator, a job that required the family to move to the Dominican Republic just over four years ago.

"It was a difficult adjustment, just losing my friends and also the baseball opportunities I had in Miami -- I was going to play JV in eighth grade," Michael told PG this weekend. "But it had its positive side as well because I got to see how Dominicans breathe baseball; I got to play with a lot of great competition and also I got the training from those coaches at the academy down there. I believe that moving to the Dominican Republic helped me more than staying in Miami."

His skills do seem to have developed nicely, as has his body; he wears 170-pounds on his athletic, 6-foot-2 frame. After his infield workout Saturday morning, a PG scout wrote that Landestoy "showed off his athletic ability and quick instincts" and after taking BP Saturday afternoon, the scout observed that he has a "good build, shows good bat speed and makes good contact to all fields."

But Landestoy is more than just an aspiring young ballplayer. He will officially graduate from St. George School in Santo Domingo, D.R., on June 19 with a 3.7 GPA and has yet to decide on a college. He lists 12 schools on his PG Profile that he interested in attending, including high profile academic institutions like Vanderbilt, Rice, Stanford, Princeton, Duke, Gonzaga and Pepperdine.

He chose to attend the PG National Academic Showcase -- which mandates a 3.4 GPA for is participants -- as opposed to the PG Sunshine East Showcase because of the National Academic's emphasis on, well, academics.

"I believe that if I attend this showcase those options and those universities that I have written down will want to have me, not only for my baseball talents but for my academics, as well," Landestoy said. "I want to make sure that I'm going to the right university that will fit my program as a student-athlete.

"I'm searching for more colleges and I just want to explore my options. I want to come here and showcase my skills and try to get into not only a good baseball program but also a great university with great academics."

Rafael Landestoy, a native Dominican, played eight major league seasons (1977-84) with the Reds, Astros and Dodgers and has spent the years since his retirement coaching in the Tigers, Giants, Expos and Mets organizations. He also coached the Tigres del Licey to the Dominican League championship in the 2005-06 season.

Rafael's MLB playing career had been over for a decade by the time Michael was born; he was well into his coaching career at the time. But because Rafael has stayed in the game, it has always been a part of Michael's life.

"They know me for running around in Comerica Park (in Detroit) when I was little," Michael said. "And also during winter ball (in the Dominican) they knew me pretty well around there, too."

Surprisingly, perhaps, Rafael at first tried to dissuade his son from the pursuing the game.

"They always talk about the baseball blood, the genetics, but it's really his whole philosophy on discipline and how important that is; that has been his main influence on me," Michael said of his father.  "He didn't want me to play baseball. He tells me that baseball is a 'sacrifice' and that you have to sacrifice a lot of time to perfect your game and reach the next level. But I told him that just as he had a passion I believe in my passion as well, and I'm a hard worker and I continue to work hard every day."

Ana Landestoy, a native Dominican who was raised in Boston and attended prestigious Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., has lived on both sides of the fence.

"I've been with my husband for 22 years now, so I've been around baseball and I know what it is to be a baseball wife, and I've basically raised a family with the father gone," Ana said. "I think that was the main reason why (Rafael) didn't want Michael to play because he knows what it's like, but that's true in all the (sports) professions.

"(Michael has) been playing baseball since he was 6 years old," she continued. "When we came to the Dominican Republic I said, 'Well, here's Michael.' I did all the baseball up to age 13 and from there his dad took over. He loves it so much; just trying to have a full schedule of school and then go out and practice, that tells you that he's dedicated."

The National Academic Showcase is just the second PG event Landestoy has attended. He was at the 2013 World Uncommitted Showcase here in early January and received a favorable 8.5 PG player grade. He came into this event determined to improve on that grade.

"I always come in with very high expectations of myself to perform at the high level that I'm used to practicing at," he said. "When you work hard, your expectations are high, and that's exactly what I've been trying to do, and so far it's going very well."

It's an experience that will stay with mother and son forever, even as Michael begins to transition into the next stage of his life.

"This is our time before he goes away to college to give him exposure," Ana said. "Where ever he decides to play, at least the college coaches will have had a chance to see him.

"For me, the Perfect Game experience has been wonderful," she continued. "We came here in January and that's when Michael found out about this. We decided to come back to the National Academic because he's (graduating) with a 3.7 (GPA) ... and as his mom I want to him to get the best education but I also want him to play because I know it's his passion."

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