Oropesa taken as top Trojan in MLB Draft

Oropesa didn't go as high as he would have liked in this year's draft, but his many intangibles should lead him to high success.

With every swing of his bat, he was Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez. The brick wall he used to play catch against might as well have been navy and white. And his head was always topped with one of his many caps. Almost all of them bore the letters "N" and "Y."

But on Tuesday, after a simple phone call told Ricky Oropesa he was selected 116th overall to the San Francisco Giants, his entire world turned orange.

Within a half hour after the call, black and orange balloons filled his living room.

His sister Olivia's Facebook profile picture soon became the Giants logo.

More than a decade of fandom vanished in less than 10 seconds.

Sure his Yankee allegiance won't be forgotten. How can it, with all the games he watched or all the conversations he had with his dad Alfred about ‘dem Yanks? Or that one time, when he slammed a ball all the way to the upper deck of Old Yankee Stadium during a pre-draft workout? Those times are apart of him, just like his powerful arm and sharp baseball instinct.

Maybe it was happenstance that his first T-ball team ever was called the San Francisco Giants. Or maybe it isn't about a team, at the root of it. Maybe the Yankee ties had more to do with Oropesa's passion for the sport.

"I think he was meant to do this. This is what he wanted to do. His mindset was always about baseball," Ricky's mom Ruthie Oropesa said.

Oropesa is a junior infielder for the USC Trojans. He started taking hacks and throwing the ball at the age of four. When draft day came around last week, Oropesa was familiar with the process. In 2008, he was drafted in the 24th round by the Boston Red Sox.

"When he had that chance out of high school I don't think his family thought he was ready, but I think now it's Ricky's time to begin his trek to the big leagues," said Chad Smith, Oropesa's teammate at USC and recent draft pick of the Detroit Tigers.

People describe many athletes as having a strong work ethic, being ‘gym rats' and loving their sport. Oropesa fits that description, too. It's apparent in his frame and on his stat sheet.

What isn't obvious is the numerous intangibles that Oropesa possesses.

Beginning with his heart, Oropesa cares for his 86-yeard old grandmother, visiting her in his free time and paying homage to her in his sport. Daily calls to her isn't out of the ordinary, it's out of love.

"She's been fighting cancer since [2002] and she's his biggest inspiration," Oropesa's dad Alfred said. "He takes a picture of her with him when he travels. [He] puts it on his bedside table."

Continuing with his brain, Oropesa knows he has three younger siblings that mimic his every move, three up-and-coming athletes who will model their approach after their eldest sibling.

"As an older brother you have to be the role model, the guy that looks over them and kind of paves the road for them," Oropesa said.

"When he comes back he really tries to watch what he says and how he says it and give good advice," Alfred Oropesa said.

Moving on to his hunger, Scout projected Oropesa to be the 50th overall pick in this year's draft. After reflecting for a day, he said he's going to turn his disappointment at his lower draft position into an inspiration.

"It's going to add fire and drive to my passion for the game and I'm going to show these guys that I'm first-round talent. For the critics that didn't like me I'm going to show them what's up," Oropesa declared.

Closing with his upbringing, Smith said Oropesa's best friend is his dad Alfred and close friend Chris Lencioni describes Oropesa as a ‘momma's boy.'

"When you have your family support it makes it that much easier to succeed," Lencioni said.

Over the weekend, at the home of a friend in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Oropesa's hometown, the Oropesa family held a draft party for Ricky. There were no hanger-ons, no stuffy Hollywood agents and definitely no Yankee hats present.

What was there were friends and family members and a big black and orange cake. The cake was topped with a picture of little Ricky in his T-ball days, in a cap that bore the same letters he'll soon get paid to wear.

Oropesa has until August to sign with the Giants organization and forego his senior season at USC. At his draft party Saturday, he wore a Giants' shirt that read the words "Speak Softly." If Oropesa decides to leave college, it isn't in his nature to make a loud exit.

Because his intangibles don't come with baggage. They weigh as much as a couple of family photos.

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