Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 17, 2014

Highly-touted Tellez has something to prove

BLUEFIELD — Rowdy Tellez has been ‘Rowdy’ for so long, his own family sometimes forgets his real name.

“I was in my mom’s stomach and they didn’t know if I was a boy or a girl so my grandparents called me ‘Baby Rowdy’ and it stuck,” said Tellez, a 19-year-old first baseman for the Bluefield Blue Jays. “I introduce myself as Rowdy all over the place.

“I asked my grandmother the other day if she would know my real name, which is Ryan. It has always been Rowdy everywhere I go, school, ball, friends, family, it has always been Rowdy.”

The name isn’t the only constant for Tellez. His passion for baseball has been around almost as long.

“It has always been from day one, I never wished for anything else,” said Tellez, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound first baseman, who was a 30th round draft choice last June by Toronto out of Elk Grove (Calif.) High School, a suburb of Sacramento. “I always told my teachers that is what I was going to be and they always told me I wasn’t so I have come to prove everybody wrong.

“It is just a dream come true playing pro ball. There are a lot of kids out there that want to be in my shoes, I am just glad I have come here and grateful that God gave me the talent to be here.”

Tellez was originally expected to be selected in the top three rounds, but his commitment to play at Southern California (USC) scared off many clubs. Yet, the Trojans lost out, and not just because of Toronto’s offer of an  $850,000 signing bonus.

“Nah, I always wanted to play professional baseball,” said Tellez, who was signed by an area scout for Toronto, who was like a second father to him as a child. “I got picked where I got picked and I am just grateful that I got drafted.

“It all worked out in the end for the amount of money and the situation I was put in, you couldn’t ask for anything else.”  

The left-handed hitting Tellez began his professional career last summer in the Gulf Coast League, batting .234 with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 34 games. He scored 10 runs, clubbed five doubles, three triples, and walked 15 times, while striking out just 26 times, not bad for a power hitter.

He did, however, show marked improvement in August, batting .271 in the final month of the season with seven walks and just eight strikeouts, even hitting a pair of home runs in his final four games. Tellez finished his season playing in Bluefield during the Appalachian League playoffs.

“I struggled a little bit in the beginning, but once I started to not try to impress other people, but just impress myself and stay within, I developed the ability to be a professional athlete and understand what it means to be one.” said Tellez, who batted .500 with nine home runs, 16 doubles and 10 stolen bases in just 94 at-bats as a high school senior. “I played up to my standards and I did well and that is when I got the call to come here and I performed here. I am back here for a full year, just keep it going.”

A power hitter who could find the right field fence inviting at Bowen Field, Tellez has learned not to swing for home runs, having patterned his game after other left-handed hitters like Jim Thome and Adrian Gonzalez, who were also slick fielders at first base.

“I have been taught that since a young age that a home run is a mistake,” said Tellez, echoing the sentiments of Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg. “As long as you hit line drives the ball will go out so I never try to hit home runs, I just try to hit line drives and drive in runs and help the team win.”

“You try to encourage them that a home run is a mistake, it is a by-product of a good swing...,” added Holmberg. “A lot of it is hidden, I have seen over the years, guys hit for more power when they get to the big leagues.

“If they are capable of hitting, if you look at guys’ numbers, some guys have monster numbers in the big leagues, buts ome of them just sort of wave their way through. They hit very well, and the power comes when they get to the big leagues.”

Tellez, like many of the local Blue Jays, has spent the last several months enduring the heat of early afternoon baseball games at extended spring training in Florida.

“I was definitely glad to get out of there, but it was a good experience, everybody talks about how bad it is, but it is what it is,” Tellez said. “It is extended spring training, you do the same things over and over again, it is repetitive, it can get a tad bit boring, but you have to battle through it.

“It builds character and you have to battle through that adversity and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

For Tellez, that was his arrival in Bluefield, with the Blue Jays poised to open the 2014 season at historic Bowen Field on Thursday against the Johnson City Cardinals in the season opener for both teams.

“I am always excited just to play, it is an opportunity to play no matter where you are,” said Tellez, who was tabbed as the 18th ranked prospect in the Toronto system by Baseball America. “You can’t complain about where you are going or where you are not going, you have just got to be grateful that they put you there and you are still playing the game.

“You have a profession, it is not a real job, you are out playing a game every day.”

Being far from his California home, Tellez has been traveling the country for much of his life, but remains close to his family. His grandfather, who  Tellez never met, played in Mexican leagues, and was a subject of a book written about his days on the diamond.

“(My family) always let me fly alone when I was younger, I would play down in Georgia playing in tournaments and in Florida so I have experience being away from home,” Tellez said. “You always want to be close to your family and feel that love, but sometimes you have got to make sacrifices and go out and be your own person and grow up.

“It is where I want to be, I want to be out playing ball every day, but at the same time you want to see your family every now and then and say ‘hi’ to mom and dad and your siblings.”

Tellez, who is an avid outdoorsman — no matter whether it is baseball, fishing or hunting — is excited about the prospects ahead for this collection of Blue Jays, who are finally playing games that count.

“I am extremely excited, I don’t have to play in the heat at 1 o’clock like you do in extended,” Tellez said. “You get to play in front of fans and at night and the games actually matter here, the score matters, the team matters. When you are (in extended) it is mainly just getting your work in.”

As for the goals ahead, Tellez is thinking big. A ‘Rowdy’ kind of big.

“We should have a pretty good team,” he said, with a smile. “We are definitely going to win the Mercer Cup, that is the big goal, and we are going to bring home an Appalachian League championship.”

— Contact  Brian Woodson at bwoodson@bdtonline.com / Twitter @bdtwoodson

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