Friday, January 13, 2012

DAHOF Top 100 -- #69 Oscar Salazar

One of the primary reasons I adore minor league baseball is the accessibility of the players. The "AA" Texas League is made up of 8 teams in 2 divisions playing 140 games each summer. The result of this configuration is each team plays a ton of games against their three divisional rivals each season.

In 2001 I was a Round Rock Express season ticket holder, attending an unnatural number of Texas League games. We watched many games pitting the Express against their rivals from Midland. Our seats were in the first row behind 1st base, right next to the visitors dugout. This allowed us to spend a lot time getting to know the players from the Rockhounds. Without question, one of the most friendly players I have ever met in minor league baseball was Oscar Salazar.

To anyone watching and paying attention, he was having a great time being a professional baseball player. Oscar always had a smile on his face. He was very happy to sign autographs for everyone that asked. He tossed every ball he could into the stands. To make it better, he had a great season in 2001, making both the Texas League and "AA" All Star teams.

My most vivid memory of Oscar happened that summer. It was a couple of seasons before the Dell Diamond expanded and the left field upper deck structure was added. At the time, the clubhouse was the only visible structure and was a frequent target of young AA home run hitters. Oscar Salazar was the first ballplayer I ever saw hit a home run OVER that club house. It was amazing. I can still see the ball disappearing into the dark Central Texas night.

Oscar has gone on to play in the majors for a couple of different teams, including most recently the Padres in 2010. I just checked the Venezuelan Winter League stats and was pleased to see he is still playing. He is currently leading the league in HRs and batting an impressive .359 for the Tiburones de La Guaira. He will always be one of my favorite players, not because of his talent, but because of his joyous attitude.


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