KING CITY – Behind the record was former A and Angels catcher Carlos Perez. On the mound was sling leader Henderson Alvarez, who threw a no-hitter during his time as Florida Marlin.
Marc Flores was in a line-up surrounded by teammates in the Venezuelan Winter League who had sniffed Major League Baseball, as well as potential customers heading in that direction.
And the 28-year-old King City High graduate fit right in with his late arrival, opening his eyes with his 400-plus-foot moonshot homers sailing in orbit.
“I’ve posted a lot of numbers,” Flores said. “I was a couple of hits from hitting .300. I got to the base by walking. I hit the ball hard. ”
So imagine coming to the stadium a week before the post season and not seeing your name on the lineup card or on the list.
Despite being among the team’s home race leaders since his arrival, Flores was informed that he was released by Magallanes, replaced by a 40-year-old veteran who had a bat all season.
“It completely blinded me,” said Flores, a former Mission Trail Athletic League all-league in basketball, baseball and football in King City.
Knowing that a right-handed thrower threw that day, and he was the only left-handed bat on the list, Flores knew something was wrong.
“I went into the manager’s office and said, ‘Why am I not in the lineup, I’m being released?’ “Flores said. He said, ‘I don’t know. Let me call the general manager.’ I said no. I’ll call. ‘”
A 6-foot-5 first baseman, Flores was told the team felt it needed an outfielder for the playoffs. As an importer, the one-time slugger Hartnell College was the strange man out there.
“I asked, ‘Have you seen my numbers?’ ”In Flores. “My teammates were in shock. I’ve been fighting an uphill climb since I was drafted by the White Sox. There is only one obstacle to overcome. ”
Flore’s figures made the move confusing. In just 64 bats, he hit .275 with five homers and 12 runs in, with a .421 percentage on base and a .974 OPS.
“These are numbers that do not normally guarantee a release,” Flores said. “Considering that I had not had a bat in almost a year after I came here, I was happy with my numbers.”
The pandemic interrupted Flores’ season in the Mexican league, where he hit 32 homers and ran in 104 races in 105 games for Aquascalientes in 2019 while hitting .318.
Flores saw the Venezuelan Winter League as a shot to get its name on the radar of other professional organizations in Japan and Korea in the spring.
“There are a lot of former big leagues here,” Flores said. “There are many potential customers who look for bats before returning to spring training. Playing in Venezuela is something I have always wanted to do. ”
Flores played only 22 games for Magallanes, mainly as a designated hit. The year off did not seem to hurt his power, hitting a homer in every 12 strokes.
“I had taken 200 cuts a day in a cage that my father and I built at home,” Flores said. “We made a lot of soft throws. I walked a lot around the hills where we live outside of King City to keep fit. ”
Flores expects to return to Mexico in April to play for Aguascalientes, where he put together a season for ages in 2019, collecting a .487 percent on the base to go along with 88 trips.
The 32 homers and 104 races that have been entered are two of the five best marks in franchise history.
“It was a coming year,” Flores said. “I often go back and watch the videos to study my turn. I use it as motivation. It mentally reminds me of what I am capable of doing. ”
Prior to 2019, Flores had never hit more than 17 homers in a season. But he added 25 kilos of muscle to a 250-kilogram chiseled frame two years ago, and increased his power as he cut back on strikes.
“I had hit the ball well the season before,” Flores said. “Things just fell into place in 2019. I had set a goal. I kept telling myself I could beat 30 homers. Honestly, I’m proud of the homes. ”
Flores has been informed that the Mexican league will reduce the season to 66 games and probably start in May.
The level of play in the Mexican league has been compared to Triple-A baseball in the United States, with several previous major leagues in the league.
And while Flores knows that there are bigger pay days if he chooses Japan or Korea, he remains in the back of that dream as a child to land on a series in major leagues.
“You hear stories all the time about guys getting shot at a later age,” Flores said. “If I have another good year, hopefully a scout will take note. I think I can help many teams. ”
And Flores comes just like his player. Every year he has improved since joining the Mexican league in 2018. The average .318 was also a career high in 2019.
“I just know the game better,” Flores said. “I understand what I need to do to prepare for the low season. I’m kind of my own coach at my age. I know how to get ready for work. ”
Sometimes it has been playing baseball as an uphill climb for Flores. After being drafted by the White Sox in the 30th round in 2014, he played only 32 games before being released.
After three years of playing independent league baseball in the United States, Flores went to Mexico, where he hit 49 homers and ran 162 races in 217 games, batting .308.
“When you are a lower choice, you have limited chances of success,” Flores said. “You skate on thin ice every exercise. When money is invested in higher choices, you will not get the same look. That does not mean you can not play. I have proven that people make mistakes all their lives. ”