Escobar's big-league defensive skills born of youthful workouts

Tuesday, April 29, 2008
For The Times

When the other kids in La Sabana, Venezuela, were studying reading and arithmetic, Alcides Escobar was learning the art of fielding grounders.

That is, when the 9-year-old could get away with it.

"I skipped class all the time to go to the baseball field," the Huntsville Stars shortstop said through a translator. "I always got in trouble. My parents said I needed to go to school, but all I wanted to do was play baseball.

"It's in my blood."

From the time Escobar can remember uttering his first words, he was telling his mother Isbelia he wanted to play ball. She didn't understand her son's love affair with the game, but his father obliged with a special gift.

Little did his parents know where buying Escobar his first plastic glove would take him.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound shortstop has blossomed into the best defensive prospect in the Milwaukee organization, according to Baseball America, and Brewers personnel insist he has the potential to become a perennial All-Star.

"He reminds me of Tony Fernandez with a lot more speed and a little less power," said Stars hitting coach Sandy Guerrero. "Since he's been with us, he's shown tremendous improvement at the plate. Defensively, there's not a lot more he can do because he's major league-caliber."

When Escobar was little, he would grab his schoolbooks and hide his glove when leaving his home. Instead of heading into the classroom, he would veer off to the new stadium next door to his school.

He would toss his books into the dugout, take out his plastic glove and spend hours fielding balls from a local coach, the late Alnaldo Sanchez. For six years, Sanchez and the toy glove sculpted a star.

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