SAN BERNARDINO -- In the middle of March, a quartet of men sat down at a restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona. Three of the four men had combined for 2,126 appearances on a Major League Baseball field. Only 176 players in the history of the game have played more times than that. The fourth man of that group has played zero.
Ben Revere, Cameron Maybin and Eric Young Jr., have all had what many would call successful careers as baseball players. They've made their fortune in doing so, collecting over $55 million in contracts. One thing ties them together to the fourth man. They all started with the dream of making it to the place they are now.
Michael Hermosillo is one of the Los Angeles Angels most talented prospects, and during Spring Training, he was given the opportunity to showcase those talents with the big boys. All while sitting under the wing of his trio of dinner mates.
In a courteous gesture, Revere picked up the tab at dinner that night. However, the group spent more time together, primarily in the outfield at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
"They've all had some type of big league experience whether it's a lot or a little," Hermosillo said of his Angels' teammates. "You just try to pick everyone's brain and try to take something from everyone and just watch what they're doing."
A student of the game, the 22-year-old nearly opted for a different career path that would have never led to that dinner in Arizona.
A three-star football recruit from Ottawa High School in Illinois, Hermosillo played running back, wide receiver and defensive back at Ottawa High School in Illinois. His skill set led him to a school record, when he rushed for 352 yards and five touchdowns on just nine carries in August of 2012. His football talents were not ignored, and he was given offers to play football from multiple Division-1 schools, one he eventually committed to, the University of Illinois.
"One thing is for certain - Hermosillo is one of the best pure athletes in [Illinois]," one scout told Fletcher Page of Scout.com in 2012. "Playing football, basketball and baseball in high school, Hermosillo has been prolific at each sport."
Still a pure athlete today, baseball scouts continued to rave about Hermosillo in their line of work as well, giving the then teenage outfielder an idea of where they'd like to take him in the draft nearly a full year prior to the draft.
"There are scouts that have told me that they could see me going anywhere from the top five rounds to top 10 rounds or top 15," Hermosillo told Michael Wartick of Scout.com 10 months prior to the draft. "The first 10 rounds is something that I would have to consider, but it's not something I'm planning on, just something I'm hoping for."
In June of 2013, the decisions from choosing a school and which classes to take turned into a much bigger challenge. The MLB Draft was underway, and Hermosillo did not hear his name in the first five rounds, or 10 rounds, or 15 rounds. Instead, in the 28th round of the draft, the Angels called his name, and not long after, he signed for $100,000.
The reality of on-field success on the gridiron did not translate immediately to the diamond of small minor league parks across the nation, as many simply described him with terms like "projectable" and "raw athlete," instead of "future Major League."
In his first three years in the Angels organization, Hermosillo hit .240 with a .662 OPS, never playing above Low-A Ball. Honorable, but no true numbers expressing the actual talent he possessed. That all changed last summer.
Over the summer of 2016, Hermosillo went on a hitting clinic. Between both Single-A affiliates, he hit .317 with a .402 on-base percentage and .467 slugging percentage, all tops within the Angels minor league system for players with the same amount of games played. His performance earned him to honors of being named the Angels, "Minor League Player of the Year."
With a new regime at the helm, the Angels Front Office wanted to see more of their rising prospect, and gave Hermosillo his ticket home along with an invitation to play in the Arizona Fall League - where the top prospects from each team go.
While arriving in Arizona, a quick glance at the Scottsdale Scorpions roster, and you saw top prospects such as Gleyber Torres, Greg Bird and Gavin Cecchini, but one unique name popped off the page in the outfield section, positioned right next to Hermosillo.
Another former football standout appeared on the roster sheet, but it wasn't just some recruit. The Heisman Trophy Award is given to the most outstanding college football player in the land, with only 79 recipients, and right there on the page was one of them.
Tim Tebow, 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, would be playing left field for Scottsdale. Only a few yards away would be Hermosillo, patrolling center. The former NFL quarterback was taking his hacks at playing baseball and attempting to become a Major Leaguer, with large criticism and negativity from the media, which can tear a clubhouse apart. It wasn't the case.
"Playing with Tebow was awesome," Hermosillo said. "As a guy he's just inspirational. I was kind of one of the guys on the fence when he first (tried baseball). After talking to him and being around him every day, he just really wants to play baseball and have that opportunity. He's a great teammate and if anyone, especially in the New York Mets organization, if they can just learn anything from him, it's going to be something they can take with them forever."
Fall Ball ended earlier than planned for Hermosillo when he sprained his thumb diving for a ball in the outfield. Though it was a brief recovery, he had already been shut down and the long winter was upon baseball as a whole.
Over the winter, analyst from across the nation flocked to their laptops to find anything to write about and keep their income flowing. A large topic of discussion during the down time is which prospect is best within each system. It's simple, and tends to be just another ranking system to tout horns and create attention for websites, but fans love it.
When it came to the Angels, one name suddenly appeared where it hadn't before. Venture to take a guess? Outfielder, Michael Hermosillo.
The strong 2016 campaign had finally lifted Hermosillo's name into many homes across the nation as one of the premier prospects within the Halos system. Hermosillo was being recognized as a top-15 Angels prospect by popular outlets such as Baseball America, MLB, Scout and was even ranked fifth best by Keith Law of ESPN.
"It's good to have the recognition but I just focus on the people in my corner and who have believed in me from the start," stated Hermosillo. "My parents, family, friends, people like that. That's what keeps me going and when you focus on the negatives or the people who are not talking about you, it just brings you down. The more people that want to jump on the wagon, that's great, I'll take it. But at the end of the day, as long as I have my core support, I'm going to be good."
The winter passed, and suddenly, Michael Hermosillo was having dinner with three Major Leaguers. Ben Revere, Cameron Maybin and Eric Young Jr.
He had been invited to big league camp by the Angels, and was ready to show the management and team what he had to offer down the road. It didn't take long for him to prove the point that he belonged.
In his fourth at bat of Spring Training, the ninth inning against his childhood team, the Cubs, Hermosillo saw a 2-1 fastball break on the inner half. He put a rip into it, and it landed beyond the fences in left field - a home run.
"Some guys get to go to big league camp, even if they're in minor league camp and I'd never had that experience," said Hermosillo. "It was all new to me from the start and being able to hit a home run at the Cubs place - I grew up a Cubs fan - my mom and dad were in the stands, I had some cousins there, my girlfriend was there so it was cool."
Just a few weeks later, Hermosillo was shipping off for San Bernardino, California. A blank page, all starting in the California League with the Angels High-A affiliate, Inland Empire 66ers. Another clean slate, but with more recognition with the title, "top prospect."
Though there were no games being played, and no score sheet confirming or denying what a player can do, expectations from Hermosillo and his manager for the new year were evident the day he walked into San Manuel Stadium. Be a leader.
"He got around Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout and watched how those guys go about their business and I really expect him to explain what he saw," said 66ers manager, Chad Tracy.
"Not necessarily being a leader vocally but just being a leader in the clubhouse and on the field," Hermosillo said. "They want me to show what I've learned from the big league camp and implement it here."
Prior to the season, Hermosillo spoke of goals. The primary mindset was simple and near the same as every other baseball player - improve.
In his first 10 games with the 66ers, Hermosillo has shown more than just improvements. He's batting .375 with a .490 on-base percentage, while boasting a loud .965 OPS, currently third best in the California League.
Baseball is the most democratic sport. There's no set duration for a game, each man and team get their final share to claim victory, and each man has to earn his way to the top of the sports ladder. For Michael Hermosillo, the democratic order of baseball may see him near the top before long.
"Hopefully this will be the year where I can get on base, show my speed and maybe put that in the back of the minds of the coaches in Anaheim," concluded Hermosillo. "You never know in September, I hope the Angels have that opportunity to be playing in the playoffs and if I can prove (that skill set), that's something I can do that helps me."
This article was written and published by Scout Media Senior Publisher, Taylor Blake Ward.