‘Dads shortstop Profar takes big stage Sunday

At 18 years old, Jurickson Profar is taking center stage Sunday.

The Hickory Crawdads’ shortstop is participating in the Major League Baseball Futures Game in Arizona, which is part of the league’s annual All-Star festivities.

The game pits the United States team against the World team. Teams are comprised of top minor league prospects.

Players on both of the 25-man rosters are selected by MLB, the MLB Scouting Bureau, MLB.com, Baseball America, USA Baseball and the 30 MLB teams.

After being snubbed for selection in the South Atlantic League All-Star game, Profar was ecstatic when he found out he had been selected to the Futures Game.

“I am pretty excited,” Profar said. “I am so happy. I want to be there now. I wish Sunday was today, and I was on the field playing.”

Profar is rated as the No. 2 prospect in the Texas Rangers organization by Baseball America. He will be joined in Arizona by the club’s top-rated prospect, Martin Perez, who plays for Double-A Frisco. Perez was a starter for the Crawdads in 2009.

Of the players on full-season minor league teams, Profar is the youngest. He spent half a season with Spokane in 2010.

Crawdads’ manager Bill Richardson, who is working with Profar for the first time this season, says he is growing as a player.

“He is one of those guys that you can give them drills after drills, but he wants to be the best at them,” Richardson said. “Watching him work those drills and batting practice into the game is tremendous.”

In 67 games with the Crawdads, Profar is batting .272 with 68 hits, 19 doubles, three triples and 48 runs scored. He also has eight home runs, 35 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.

In 63 games with Spokane, Profar batted .250 with 63 hits, 19 doubles, no triples, four home runs and 23 RBIs.

“I’ve really been blown away with how hard an 18-year-old kid hits the ball,” said hitting coach Jason Hart. “He’s hit some of the farthest home runs on our team this year.”

Profar said he has improved a great deal since joining the Rangers’ organization last season.

“I am stronger this year,” Profar said. “I feel like I’m more mature in the game. I’m getting better every day.”

Profar comes from a rich baseball background. In 2004, he led his native Curacao to a Little League World Series title — the first in the tiny island’s history.

Curacao returned to the finals of the World Series in 2005, but lost. Profar was named the Series MVP both years.

Despite his ability to pitch in the 90 mph range during the World Series, Profar signed with the Rangers to play shortstop.

“I like to make plays and hit,” Profar said. “I like to play every day. Pitchers don’t play every day. A bullpen or starting pitcher gets to pitch one day and maybe a few days later. I just wanted to play every day.”

Richardson said he expects Profar to not only show up on Sunday, but make a big impact in the Futures Game.

“The bigger the stage, the better he plays,” Richardson said. “I am not expecting him to go up there be a part of the game. I’m expecting him to do something pretty special.”

Fans can catch the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.