Eagerly pursuing a dream Baseball: Arundel's Hector Guadalupe loves to play the game and it shows every time that he takes the field.

May 12, 1998|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Maybe you've noticed Arundel shortstop Hector Guadalupe jumping rope -- without a rope -- before a pitch is thrown.

"I get real hyper because I have so much fun playing baseball," explained Guadalupe, a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, who is usually the first one on the field each inning.

Guadalupe, named for his father, who taught him how to play at age 4, came to Maryland nearly three years ago chasing a dream. He played one year at Riverdale Baptist before transferring to Arundel for his senior season because of "personal problems."

"Hector loves to play the game, and he is the most scouted player we've ever had here," said Arundel coach Bernie Walter, who has been at the school 25 years. "When the word got out that he had transferred here, my phone rang off the hook with scouts wanting schedules."

The word among pro scouts is that Guadalupe may be selected as high as the fifth-round come June and the free agent draft. The 6-foot tall, 170-pound Guadalupe can run, hit, throw and field at the levels scouts look for in prospects.

He has patterned his fielding style after the Orioles' Roberto Alomar, who grew up about a half-hour from Guadalupe's home and befriended him while playing winter ball in San Juan a couple years ago.

Guadalupe uses a glove Alomar gave him along as well as a few tips he got working out with the Orioles' second baseman.

"I can see him playing shortstop or second base in the big leagues one day," said veteran Milwaukee Brewers' scout Walter Youse, a longtime fixture on Baltimore-area sandlots. "He's quick, has great actions and can do all the things you look for in a middle infielder."

Hitting over .350 with a county leading 11 doubles, four homers, 18 RBIs and 11 stolen bases for the third-ranked Wildcats (14-4), Guadalupe has a scholarship to Middle Georgia, one of the nation's top junior college baseball programs.

That is an option, if he chooses not to sign a pro contract this year. He would then be eligible for the draft in each of the next two years while in junior college.

"I've liked Hector since I first saw him a couple years ago," says San Diego Padres' scout Gary Kendall. "He has really soft hands, is quick, has a good arm, and can hit both ways."

Guadalupe's father taught his right-handed son to bat left-handed three years ago.

"My dad said being a switch hitter would give me more of a chance to play pro ball, and he had me out there taking 300 cuts a day," said Guadalupe. "I feel a lot more comfortable from the left side."

Two weeks ago, Guadalupe went 8-for-11 with five doubles, nine runs scored, four RBIs, a homer, four walks and three stolen bases. In the field that week, he flawlessly made four putouts and had 12 assists.

"I can't think of a better week anybody has ever had here at Arundel," said Walter.

Guadalupe came to Maryland in the summer of 1996 and enrolled at Riverdale Baptist. The Crusaders had played in Puerto Rico, and coach Terry Terrill was approached by the parents of several young players who were seeking more exposure.

Guadalupe had an outstanding junior year at the Prince George's County school, which went 18-5. He batted .344 with four homers, 20 RBIs, 25 runs scored and 25 stolen bases.

That summer, he played for the Gunther's club team, an 18-and-under squad that went 51-7. He hit .390 and led the team in at-bats (159), runs (56), stolen bases (35) and triples (six).

Leaving Riverdale Baptist at mid-semester this year was a scary time for Guadalupe, who was afraid he might have to return home.

"There is no high school baseball in Puerto Rico, just legion baseball from February to the summer," said Guadalupe. "Over here, it's more competitive and you can lift weights in the off season and get stronger. I was worried."

Angels scout Jerry Wargo, who met Guadalupe when he came here, suggested Arundel as a new school and talked his former high school teammate at St. Anthony's (D.C.), John Puglise, into becoming Guadalupe's legal guardian.

Puglise's son, Brian, is a freshman catcher at Arundel, and Guadalupe moved in. Guadalupe said he loved his new home and school from the first day.

"Everybody has treated me good," said Guadalupe. "Most people know me around school, and some of my [classmates] say, 'Hit a home run for me, Hector.' And Coach Walter is a great coach and helped me a lot. I love playing for him."

Has the sacrifice of being away from home been worth it?

"I would definitely do it again," said Guadalupe. "I've developed my skills 100 percent and playing pro ball has been my goal since I was a little kid."

Pub Date: 5/12/98

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