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LIC HS teen choosing between MLB & college


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Joshua Almonte

Joshua Almonte has a life-changing decision to make, and the clock is ticking.

Almonte was drafted from Long Island City High School in the 2012 Major League Baseball draft by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 22nd round, 685th overall. While the draft was a few weeks ago, he hasn’t decided whether to become a professional or continue his education.

“I’m only 18 so I could go to junior college and get drafted again,” said Almonte, who became the first player to be drafted from the school in approximately 45 years, according to published reports. “But then I could get injured. There are pros and cons.”

Almonte was also offered a full-ride scholarship to play baseball for Miami Dade College in Florida. He has until July 13 to sign his professional contract.

“Most people tell me, ‘that’s my dream, go ahead and sign,’ but it’s not as easy as people think,” he said.

His dream, to be drafted and become a professional player, started last summer. Almonte said that while playing with his summer travel team, the New York Rays, he was visited by so many college coaches that he thought if he pushed himself he could get pro scouts to talk to him as well.

“My freshmen year I was just trying to make varsity, play well and hopefully get into a good college,” Almonte said. “Getting drafted definitely wasn’t on my mind freshman year.”

But with newfound ambition, he began working towards getting drafted.

He worked out frequently to raise his speed and went to batting cages after practicing with his team to enhance his hitting.

He also had a personal trainer to become stronger, and he attended showcases to present his talents to scouts.

“I was definitely trying my hardest to get drafted,” the outfielder said. “Instead of trying to focus on one thing, I tried to improve my overall skills.”

And scouts took notice.

“At the beginning of the season when we were about to play there were seven or eight scouts at our first game,” said Thomas Lehman, Long Island City Bulldogs Head Coach.

The only problem was that Almonte had a down year in the Public School Athletic League (PSAL).

He batted just .244 and had a .404 on base percentage, a year after tearing up the league with a .395 batting average and over .536 on-base percentage.

“I found it really hard to make an adjustment,” Almonte explained. “In the summer I saw fast pitching and then in high school I rarely saw anyone throwing above 85 so it was hard for me to make an adjustment.”

But the stats didn’t stop scouts from keeping an eye on him, because of the potential the outfielder showed.

Standing at 6’3,” Almonte is long and lean — and fast, running the 60-yard in a stunning 6.55 seconds. At a recent showcase Almonte showed off his arm, gunning a 94 mph strike from right field to home plate.

“He has the tools,” Lehman said. “I think scouts saw that and how he projects for the future.”

If Almonte does choose to sign will the Blue Jays, the organization will pay for his education. However, he won’t be able to play college ball.

No matter what decision Almonte makes, Lehman said he will support him 100 percent, and is just happy to see Almonte have opportunities many other players don’t.

“It was a great honor to coach a kid with that kind of talent,” Lehman said.