Showcase : : Story
Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dominican delights

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

MINNEAPOLIS - The two young players from the Dominican Prospect League received their introduction to the biggest high school-level  showcase event in the country on Friday and Saturday, and the introduction is sure to produce a profound mutual respect by the time Monday rolls around.

Top DPL prospects Richard Urena and Leury Vargas are at the 12th annual Perfect Game National Showcase this weekend, accompanied by DPL Founder and President Brian Mejia. Urena, who is already 16 years old, will become an amateur free agent and will be able to sign a professional contract after July 2, while the 15-year-old Vargas won't be eligible to sign until his 16th birthday on Aug. 30.

It is those two upcoming dates that makes this event such an important one for the two teenagers from the Dominican Republic.

"The importance of this event specifically for both of these guys is that (MLB) teams are going to make decisions on signing them on July 2nd," Mejia said. "There are a lot of teams that want to get extra looks at them; there are multiple teams that have interest, although they haven't come up with their final decisions. This PG National works to their benefit so that a scouting director or a cross checker or an international scouting director can get a report from their guys that are here viewing the event.

"Basically, it's just more evaluation time for the decision-makers."

The efforts to get Urena and Vargas - and actually several other top Dominican prospects - to the Metrodome for the PG National got off the ground when PG's Ben Ford and David Rawnsley made a trip to the Dominican Republic in late January and early February to observe some DPL all-star action.

There were continued observations made and reports written by PG scouts during the DPL's swing through Florida and Arizona spring training camps in March when the young prospects played games against minor-leaguers and college teams, as well as one against the Langley Blaze travel team from Canada. Based on those evaluations, several top DPL prospects were invited to the PG National, but only Urena and Vargas were able to attend.

"Luckily, both of these guys were able to get visas to be a part of this event, and it kind of worked together in that fashion where they were available and they had visas and the showcase was this month; they're happy to be here," Mejia said.

"For them to be invited is a privilege," he continued. "They're coming off really good DPL seasons but they haven't been a part of the PG events, per se. I don't think it's sunk in for them that this an elite type of event for the entire United States, but they're definitely happy to be here. The competition is at levels that they've seen before ... so they're in their competitive nature. They're not over-matched; they definitely belong here."

The two youg prospects certainly seem appreciative of the invitations they received.

"I thank God for allowing me to be here and giving me the opportunity to be a part of the PG National," Urena said in Spanish while Mejia translated it to English. "I'm happy to be watching the better players in the United States and to be a part of all of it."

He then agreed with Mejia in saying he didn't feel overmatched by the American competitors.

"I feel  that with the talent that I've seen that my game is up to speed with the level of play here," Urena said. "I like the competition and I feel like I can compete at this level."

The trio didn't arrive in Minneapolis until 4 a.m. Friday after their flight out of Miami was delayed by a thunderstorm. Despite the late arrival, they were able to make it to the Metrodome Friday night and Urena and Vargas were able to get their workout sessions completed.

It was a pretty good start to the showcase. Urena, a middle-infielder who is 6-feet tall and weighs 170 pounds, ran a 6.96-second 60-yard dash and threw across the infield at 92 mph, good for a four-way tie for second after 10 of the 12 teams had done their workouts.

Vargas, a big 15-year-old at 6-3, 210-pounds, managed a 7.29-second 60, threw 83 mph across the infield and 87 from first to third.

In his batting practice review in Friday's "PG National: Day 2 Recap", www.perfectgame.org Managing Editor Patrick Ebert wrote:

"The ball jumped off the bat of both of the Dominican players in attendance ... both of whom are playing for the Vegas Gold team. Vargas in particular is intriguing in that he's only 15 years old, and hit a handful of screaming line drives."

"I'm honored to be here, and seeing that we are the only two players from the Dominican, I love how the showcase is run and like the competition," Vargas said through Mejia. "I'm very happy I was selected to come here."

Both players were part of the spring training trip that gave them the opportunity to visit MLB facilities in Florida and Arizona.

"The opportunities I've had coming to the United States have been educational for me," Vargas said. "I've learned new things and I've seen new things and I'm really appreciative of getting the opportunity to experience that."

Finally, a Perfect Game questioner asked Mejia to in turn ask the two young prospects if it was their dream to one day play in the major leagues.

"Oh yeah," Mejia said with a laugh. "I won't even have to ask them that one."

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