Maiden baseball player Randal Ortiz is living the American dream and playing the sport he loves after spending the first 16 years of his life in Puerto Rico.
Ortiz grew up in Bayamon — the second-largest city in Puerto Rico with more than 200,000 residents.
He started playing baseball at age 4 and was instantly drawn to the game.
“Dad would throw a baseball to me,” Ortiz said. “Now, baseball is a part of my life and it is what I love. I want to keep playing. I like everything about the game. I like to go the field every day. I started when I was 4 years old and now I’m 18. It’s been a long time for me playing baseball.”
As a child, Ortiz played second base and also spent a little time at first base, as well.
By the time he turned 7 years old, Ortiz had moved to shortstop and has played there ever since.
There were two professional baseball players that Ortiz idolized and tried to emulate himself after as he grew up.
“I watched some videos sometimes on YouTube of (Toronto Blue Jays shortstop) Jose Reyes,” Ortiz said. “He is from the Dominican Republic. I watched some videos of him. I also watched (the New York Yankees) Derek Jeter and a lot of other shortstops. That’s how I learned to play and how to make good plays.”
Two years ago, Randal’s family, including his mother, Amarilis Ortiz, decided to move from Puerto Rico to Maiden.
Randal’s brother and sister were already living in the area, but the main reason for the move was to better Randal’s life.
“My mom decided to move here so I could play baseball, and we could have a better life here,” Randal said. “I came here to play baseball, do what I like and have a better life. My sister and my brother were here before. We moved after they came here.”
Maiden baseball coach David Williams met Randal on his first day at the high school, and the two instantly bonded.
“Randal has been a real blessing to me and to Maiden High School,” Williams said. “When he walked through the door two years ago, he knew about five total words of English. The first word that came out of his mouth was ‘baseball.’ I introduced myself to him and grew real close to him. I was helping around school and helping him with teachers.”
With Randal patrolling shortstop last season, Maiden won its first-ever Catawba Valley 2A baseball tournament title.
This season, Ortiz is batting .393 (11-28) with 13 RBIs, seven runs scored and three stolen bases.
His on-base percentage (.529) and slugging percentage (.680) lead the Blue Devils (5-4, 2-4).
Ortiz has also tried to show his versatility by pitching on the mound.
In six innings, Ortiz has a 2.33 ERA, struck out seven batters and recorded one save.
“I do my job,” Ortiz said. “Wherever they put me, I do my job. I just try my best in everything.”
Defensively, Ortiz has 21 putouts, four assists and no errors at shortstop, including several diving plays for outs.
Hes uses those plays to feed off of his teammates.
“It feels good when I make those plays,” he said. “It feels like the team is cheering for you. They tell me good job. It feels good. Sometimes, I make those plays in close games.”
Williams has been more impressed with Ortiz’s defense than his offense.
“Having Randal at shortstop is like having an automatic out,” Williams said. “You feel comfortable with anyone on base at any time because Randal can save an inning or make an out from anywhere on the field. He comes out of nowhere and makes a play. That gives confidence not only to our coaches, but to our entire team. Our team sees that he doesn’t give up on any ball or any play. He makes a play just by nature. It just comes very easy to him.”
After high school, Ortiz is hoping to achieve another dream — playing college baseball, but if that doesn’t work out, he already has a plan in place.
“I hope I can maybe play in college — Division I or wherever,” he said. “I want to play in college and get in my profession. I want to be a good man. I want to be a professional trainer in every sport, like basketball and baseball.”
Williams said it has been a pleasure to have such a character young man in his program.
“You just can’t find a better kid,” Williams said. “Randal would do anything for you. He takes up for his teammates. He is just an outstanding kid. That’s more important than how good of a baseball player he is. He is just on another level here on the baseball field.”