Carlos Pupo: Far From Typical

Before heading to winter ball in Colombia, St. Louis Cardinals first base prospect Carlos Pupo talked with Dustin Mattison.

Carlos Pupo's path to a professional contract was far from typical.  Then again, his size is more typical of an NFL player than a baseball player.  Not selected in the draft after his senior season at Purdue, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound first baseman was playing in a Sunday morning amateur league when a St. Louis Cardinals scout spotted the menacing figure on the baseball diamond.


The Houston, Texas native was an All-State performer in his current hometown of Boynton, Florida.  From there, Pupo started his college career in 2004 at Palm Beach Community College.  He would only spend one year there before transferring to Indian River Community College for the 2005 campaign.  His third stop was at Division II Newberry College, where he hit .398/.469/.633. 


On the move again, Pupo struggled during the 2007 season at Purdue. He hit only .175/.262/.298 in 57 at bats for the Boilermakers that spring.  Undrafted and unwanted, he kept his dream of being a professional ballplayer alive by playing in his local National Adult Baseball Association league on Sunday mornings. 


One night, Cardinals' international scout Neder Horta took in the action.  As luck would have it, Pupo hit two doubles off of an ex-big leaguer and impressed the scout who happened to be seated by Pupo's father.  Horta invited the youngster to work out with the Cardinals' Gulf Coast League team for the rest of the summer.  Unemployed and unsigned, he made the 40-minute drive from his home to the Roger Dean Stadium complex each day, struggling to come up with gas money for the trip.


During the spring of 2008, Pupo continued his workout regimen with the GCL team.  One night on his way home, he got a call from Horta that changed his life.  When he answered his cell phone, the scout told him to turn around and return to Palm Beach because the Cardinals wanted to sign him.  Pupo quickly did just that and signed his first professional contract. 


Making his pro debut with the Gulf Coast Cardinals, Pupo hit .270/.357/.568 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 11 games.  The 23-year-old then skipped two levels as he was promoted to the Quad Cities.  Midwest League pitching proved to be tough on the right-handed batter.  In 38 games, Pupo hit .184/.223/.319 with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 141 at-bats.


Now, the Cardinals are sending Pupo to Colombia for the country's winter league season.  Carlos was gracious enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions before he leaves for South America. 



Dustin Mattison: What were your goals going into the season? Do you feel you met them?

Carlos Pupo: My goal was to make a good impression on the organization. For the most part I believe I did and I showed them what I am capable of.

DM: How difficult was it to go from the Gulf Coast League all the way to the Midwest League?

CP: Going from spring training to extended spring training and then to start my season in the GCL was difficult on me. I believe the GCL can be considered as one of the toughest leagues to play in. Twelve o'clock games in South Florida in the summer can be a challenge.

DM: You're playing this winter in Colombia. What can you tell me about this upcoming assignment?

CP: Yes, I am very excited to go back to Colombia. It's a great league to develop in. Pitching is tough due to the veterans that go down there.   My plan to keep getting at bats, seeing more pitches, and working on an approach that works for me and sticking to it no matter the game situation.

DM: You were signed as a free agent in 2007. How did you come to sign with the Cardinals?

CP: In the summer of 2007 I joined a men's Sunday league, the NABA (National Adult Baseball Association). I was fortunate enough that the league took place right down the street from my (Boynton Beach, FL) home.


In my first game, Neder Horta, one of our international scouts, showed up. I played very well that game and he just so happened to be sitting next to my family. I spoke with him after the game and he told me to come out to Jupiter to work out.


After a month and a half of working out with the GCL team, the Cardinals signed me. I was driving home from a game and I get a call from my Father telling me to go back, that they were going to sign me.


Prior to my signing, I was showing up every day at Jupiter at 7 o'clock in the morning. I was given my own locker, I traveled, I participated in everything the team did. I felt as if I was a part of the organization; the only thing was that I wasn't signed. Hard work and sacrifice got me to where I am.

DM: You missed some time in August due to a bad back. How is it feeling now?

CP: I had a little strain in my lower back, but i feel great now.

DM: In college, you played four years at four different schools. How difficult was that and how did that experience prepare you for professional baseball?

CP: It was very difficult. I had to adjust to different settings, coaching styles, and teammates. But in the long run I believe it will help me out. God willing, I will keep moving up with the Cardinals so I will go through the same situations.

DM: When you are not playing baseball, how do you like to spend your time?

CP: I like spending time with my family. I don't get to see them as much due to the fact I play baseball all year round.


I wish Carlos success in his upcoming stint in Colombia as well as in his career with the Cardinals.  Remember to follow Pupo and the rest of the Cardinal farmhands playing winter league baseball at The Birdhouse. 



Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at


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