Alvarez Hits Another Green Monster Instead

Vanderbilt star turned down Red Sox for Vandy



 
 

Jan. 24, 2007

By Josh Cooper

Special to CSTV.com

               

Pedro Alvarez always wanted to hit home runs in Fenway Park.

 

Growing up a Red Sox fan, the lifelong New Yorker idolized the likes of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.  And in the summer of 2005, he got his wish when the Red Sox brought him in for a pre-draft work out. That was when the 6-foot-2 215-pound left handed hitter from Washington Heights started nailing bombs over the right field wall.

 

The Red Sox drafted him in the 14th round, offered him nearly a million dollars, but ultimately, Alvarez decided to trade the dream of hitting off one green monster for another. And the Vanderbilt baseball program has reaped all the benefits so far.

 

"It was a bit overwhelming because it was the first time I had major league teams looking at me and I had the whole college recruiting going on," Alvarez said of the summer of 2005. "I'm getting my education here which is important because it's the only sure thing you have."

 

Renovated in 2001, Vanderbilt's Hawkins Field brings the retro styles of old stadiums and has shrunk them into the college level. One of its main attributes is a 35-foot high wall in left field which sits 310 feet from home plate.

 

Painted green, it draws obvious comparisons to the Fenway Park version.

 

The stadium itself is known as a pitcher's park. The most home runs hit by a Commodore in the Hawkins Field era was by Diamondbacks' prospect Cesar Nicolas who belted 18 overall in 2004.

 

This was before Alvarez stepped on campus.

 

After a slow start, going 1-for-9 in the season opening tournament in Los Angeles, Alvarez took aim at the Vanderbilt record books, setting a school marks for home runs in a season with 22 - good for second in the Southeastern Conference - while also hitting .329 with a .456 on base percentage.

 

More importantly, when the SEC schedule started, Alvarez was at his best.  He hit .361 with seven homers and 27 RBI, all while batting second in the batting order during conference play.

 

Alvarez gave Vanderbilt something that it hadn't seen since the 2004 season and wasn't really expecting in the 2006 season. The Commodores next biggest power threat was Dominic de la Osa who hit nine homers.

 

"Pedro is not a guy with power who doesn't hit, he's a guy who hits and has power," said Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin. "At this level he has very good power and he's a very good hitter."

 

Following the 2005 draft there was a chance that Vanderbilt wouldn't have seen such record setting numbers.

 

Coming from New York City and going to Horace Mann, an elite private school in Riverdale N.Y., Alvarez hadn't been regarded as an elite prospect. He was good, but not first round good.

 

He played the previous summer with the Bayside Yankees, a prestigious amateur baseball team run by Marc Cuseta whose list of alums include former and current major leaguers B.J. Surhoff and Rocco Baldelli along with a slew of other professional players.

 

At Horace Mann, Alvarez couldn't showcase his talent due to the short Ivy Prep League season.

 

But that summer, Alvarez arrived in a big way. After getting drafted by the Sox, he led Bayside with a whopping 14 home runs and 59 RBIs, all while using a wood bat.

 

This made the Red Sox start to think a little more about what to offer him.

 

But Alvarez never thought twice. He came down to Nashville and moved into his dorm room.  And when he looked at his parents faces staring at his from their hotel window, waving goodbye as Pedro walked toward campus, that was when he knew his decision was made.

 

"At that point I knew it was something I was going to have to do on my own," Alvarez said. "And that I better toughen up if I wanted to do well."

 

But the coaching staff still wanted to make sure that Alvarez attended his first class, which would end any chance the Red Sox had at signing him.

 

Vanderbilt assistant coach Erik Bakich gave Alvarez the little kid treatment, walking him to his first class, even trying to steal his cell phone along the way.

 

 "Leading right into it you never know because you hear horror stories about people on their way to class and hear their cell phones and turn right around," Bakich said. "That's always going to be a concern."

 

Since Alvarez didn't heed the calls of his cell phone the question remains as to how he can improve on such an unexpectedly dominant season. Corbin likes to point to Pat Burrell who batted .484 his freshman year with the University of Miami but finished his career with a .442 average.

 

But that's not to say that Alvarez is not a better player than he was last year in Corbin's eyes.

 

"To think that he can hit 30 just because he hit 20 is not really prudent," Corbin said. "I think his plate discipline will continue to get better, he'll get stronger, his line to line power will get better, he'll see more power to the opposite side and his leadership skills will improve."

 

While the money would have been nice, Alvarez understands the importance of education. He knows that tomorrow his playing career could be over, so why not have something to fall back on?

 

"Me and my dad look at it like a lottery where you can get lucky and make the big bucks, or it's a giant obstacle. So many things can happen that won't work out," Alvarez said. "There are so many people who put the hard work into baseball and don't amount to what they want to do, but school is the only thing you have for certain."

 

 

           

 

 

 

           

           

           

           

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