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June 24, 2011 > Union City's own Roberto Padilla going pro

Union City's own Roberto Padilla going pro

By Nick Zambrano

At this time last year, Union City native and former Ohlone pitcher Roberto Padilla found himself in a pickle of a decision. Having been drafted in the 23rd round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the slim left hander had to choose between heading into Arizona's minor league system or upping his stock value by pitching at San Jose State University.

"It was just to get experience and try to get myself better. And be able to beat the best hitters before you enter pro ball, which is Division I. I got a lot better going to San Jose State after Ohlone," Padilla said.

Being the student of the game that he is, he opted to improve his repertoire with the Spartans of SJSU. Now after a season with the D-I school, Padilla took full advantage of his times and efforts and saw them pay off in the ultimate fashion once again as he was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the eighth round of this year's draft. This time there wasn't a decision to be made, his mind was already made up.

"It's pretty excited," Padilla commented. "I'm actually starting my career and now I get to focus on one thing."

The transition from the JuCo level to the national stage at SJSU was not a big obstacle as he helped lead the Spartans to a 35-26 record. So the jump into the Rockies' minor league system may not be an alarming one for the 20 year old.

Aside from leading the Spartans in wins with nine, Padilla piled on the numbers that helped bestow him a first team All-Western Athletic Conference selection. He finished the season with a 3.19 ERA, 81 strike outs and 98.2 innings pitched; opposing batters were hitting a lousy .230 against him as well. He led SJSU in each of those categories but more importantly earned the trust and respect of his teammates.

"Going in there at the beginning was a little tough," Padilla said. "Guys had to adjust to the way I prepared for games. I didn't try to be away from the team, I did things to get myself better. Doing my routine is a lot different from other guys' but it's pretty successful, the guys ended up catching on."

It didn't hurt having a pair of familiar faces along for the ride either. Padilla was lucky enough to have his Ohlone battery mate Michael DiRocco and former Ohlone coach Tom Kunis there to help smooth out the bump up to D-I.

Because he decided to go to San Jose State for a year, Padilla will skip rookie ball league. If he had opted to join Arizona's organization out of Ohlone he would have been sent to that league as do all players coming out of junior college or high school.

Now a few steps from reaching his dream, Padilla will be setting up camp in Pasco, Wash., effective Monday, June 20. While in Pasco, he'll be pitching for the Tri-City Dust Devils, a Short-Season A classification team owned in principal by hitting legend George Brett. He'll spend three months with the team before coming back home. After that, his next stop will be determined on how well he played with the Dust Devils.

"I don't have to focus on anything else besides baseball. I don't have to manage my time with school work, now I'm playing ball. I was already pretty much focused on baseball a lot and now I could actually put more into that," Padilla said.

With that kind of attitude and drive, it'll only be a short amount of time before Padilla hears his name called in a Major League ball park.

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