By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO July 23, 2004 The Montreal Expos have called upon Gil Suarez, a 1999 graduate of Monticello High School, to play shortstop for their Class A minor league team in Apple Valley, Minnesota.
Suarez won the spot through his successful performance at a tryout last month in Florida. He was one of only 20 players out of a pool of 80 hopefuls to be selected by the major league teams.
Monticello Mens Modified Softball League President Mike Greco located the tryout through a search on the internet. The tryouts took place at Pompano Hitch Stadium, the spring training home of the Texas Rangers.
Under terms of the deal, Suarez will play 27 games for the team starting this Sunday (July 25). At any point during his play, he could be signed to a deal for 2005 with the Expos.
According to Suarez, the scout who spotted him believed he would have to play extremely poorly not to be signed to an extension.
It was pretty stiff competition there, Suarez said of the tryout session in Florida.
He noted that athletes from as far away as Japan and the Dominican Republican worked out there.
The local baseball star has been training for this spot since he was a freshman in high school. Suarez played three years as a shortstop and pitcher on the Monticello varsity baseball team.
He then played for three years with the Sullivan Spartans in the Collegiate Baseball League (CBL), a wooden bat league for Hudson Valley area teams. Most recently, he has played in a recreational baseball league in Newburgh as well as the Monticello Mens Modified League.
Suarez previously worked for a year at Pro Prospects, a baseball instructional school in Monticello.
It was a good learning experience, he said. It opened a lot of opportunities for me.
Suarez spent two years at Orange County Community College, before pursuing his criminal justice bachelors degree through the University of Phoenix online program. Suarez, who has one year left in the online program, expects to continue his education while pursuing his baseball dreams.
After this season ends, Suarez will return to his job as an investigator for Sullivan County Legal Aid.
He could have stayed content with his current job, but instead, chose to pursue his dreams like his childhood hero Cal Ripken.
He was the iron man, Suarez said. His work ethics were incredible. He pushed me to excel.
As for current major leaguers, Suarez likes New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter even though the Monticello alum is a New York Mets fan.
I like the intensity that he brings to the game, Suarez said of Jeter.
Suarez believes the Mets have a chance at the playoffs. They are currently in the thick of a stiff National League East division title race with the Atlanta Braves, Florida Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies.
Were [Mets] playing decent ball right now, he said. It helps that everybody else is playing mediocre.
The Expos prospect said he wouldnt be anywhere without Tim Havas, who was his Little League coach and is now an attorney with Sullivan County Legal Aid.
Havas hits hundreds of ground balls to him, three days a week.
Without him, I wouldnt be anything, Suarez said of Havas. He pushes me and pushes me.
Suarez also tries to visit the batting cages two to three times a week.
When he gets to Minnesota, Suarez plans to go all out.