For Los Angeles Angels prospect, Roberto Baldoquin, the venture to play in the United States, at the highest level, hasn't been an easy one. Baldoquin, who signed an $8 million free agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels this off-season, had to battle the travails of staying in a hotel in Haiti after leaving Cuba, and finding his way to the States, where he came to pursue the dream of being a professional baseball player.
Baldoquin, who is just beyond his 21st birthday, has struggled so far in the middle part of the minor leagues and the very beginning of his professional career. In his first four games, Baldoquin is still looking for his first hit, as he's 0-for-13 with eight strikeouts. Baldoquin did reach first base one time, walking, but was picked off the base promptly.
"I'm remaining calm," said Baldoquin through Scout.com's translator, Vanessa Armas. "Especially because I'm staying focused. I'm looking at it from a team aspect and that every great ballplayer has a slump, I know I will get out of it."
Baldoquin has been given high praise for his attitude on-and-off the field, and a personal friend noted what great character the young man had. Baldoquin, a 21-year-old new to a culture far beyond the one he grew up in, is looking to pass on every gift he's been given. One prime example is his desire to help children in the local area.
The Cuban's friend told us that Baldoquin is looking to spend a large amount of time with children in the hospital, and buying gifts for the ones in hospitals with families who don't have large incomes. These gifts would consist of toys, and is not something he plans to make public for positive publicity from fans, but from the good in his heart.
Baldoquin has also kept a good attitude towards his poor numbers on the field, and provided a positive spirit in the clubhouse and dugout, cheering on his teammates and providing a strong atmosphere.
"It's all been a part of what my family has instilled in me to remain good even when you're in a slump," Baldoquin said. "I'm going through a bad time but my team is doing good, so I have to remain positive for them."
Baldoquin keeps in close contact with his family currently, as most are currently in Miami. However, the challenges haven't come in the form of on-field issues, but instead, personal endeavors.
"All of it has been a culture shock," Baldoquin said. "Especially speaking Spanish, it's totally different and that's what I've been struggling with the most so far."
The young Cuban has had to struggle with the new culture, and finding a way into a learning curve of playing American baseball. Prior to the beginning of the 2015 season with the Angels' High-A affiliate, Inland Empire 66ers, Baldoquin only saw a few at-bats in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and a small amount of playing time in Tempe, Arizona during Spring Training.
"His timing is off," said 66ers manager, Denny Hocking. "That's just due to lack of experience over the past year. He's expanding the zone and guys are pitching him really tough. Once he continues to work and get more comfortable I think he'll be fine."
Escaping from Cuba is still something he prefers to leave behind him, but Baldoquin is proud of where he came from and what is in the past. After leaving, and prepping in the Dominican and Haiti, Baldoquin has focused on furthering his promising career.
"I'm proud of where I came from, especially being born in Cuba," Baldoquin said. "I will always remain a representative of Cuba. I didn't leave for political reasons, but to have a brighter future."
Baldoquin is still searching for his first professional hit, but with his teammates and coaches support, is ready to rise to the occasion and become the star his coaches, the Angels, and we believe he will become.
Taylor Blake Ward is a Senior Publisher with Scout.com, and can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard, as well as InsideTheHalos.com, @AngelsOnScout.
Vanessa Armas is an Affiliate Correspondent and Spanish Translator for Scout.com. For more updates on the Inland Empire 66ers, and Spanish content, Vanessa and can be found on Twitter, @NessaArmas.