By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
“I know that without my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I would not be here right now. My faith keeps me in the game day-in and day-out, whether I am struggling, whether I am succeeding. I just leave it all up to God and it really works for me.”
That is the testimony of Eric Arce, professional baseball player for the Bluefield Blue Jays who said his strong faith helps carry him in the jouney he has undertaken as a pro athlete.
“I’ve had a successful career so far and to be honest, I am blessed to have this opportunity to be a Blue Jay,” Arce said. “Ever since I have been playing for the Blue Jays my life has really turned around, which is really a gift from God. I appreciate every opportunity I get.”
Arce, a 21-year-old from Tampa, Fla., has been playing the game since the age of 3 and has honed his skills in the youth leagues and at the baseball prestigious high school he attended.
“I was always the youngest one. I always played up. I never played with my age group until I was in my teens and it helped me out a lot. I have gotten to see the best of the best and it prepared me for this moment,” Arce said.
“At Lakeland High School it was an awesome experience. I had great teammates and a wonderful coaching staff over there, wonderful fan support and as a matter of fact we had a lot of draft picks come out of Lakeland. Chris Sale plays for the Chicago White Sox and Drew Hutchinson is on our (Toronto’s) major league rotation and hopefully in a couple of years I will be there.”
Listed as an outfielder on the Blue Jays’ roster, Arce considers himself a player who will play anywhere that will most benefit the team.
“I think of myself as a utility player that can play all posistions and can really hit the ball. That’s my job. My job here is to bring runners in, hit home runs, get on base, do whatever I can, especially with my bat. Defensively, just make the routine play and do my job out there,” Arce said.
Wednesday night Arce did what needed to be done with his bat as he powered two home runs over the Bowen Field wall as the team’s designated hitter. Thursday night he was batting clean-up and playing left field.
“Anywhere they need me I am going to play and I am going to play it as best I can,” Arce said.
Born of Puerto Rican ancestry, his favorite baseball players were all natives of the island commonwealth.
“My favorite catcher of all-time is Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez. That’s the man right there. I am going to have to say I have two favorite outfielders, Roberto Clemente, super-stud and Juan Gonzalez,” Arce said. “Juan Gonzalez was that guy I looked up to just because I loved his swagger, his demeanor when he played. He was a hard worker and a wonderful ball player. I didn’t really get to see Roberto Clemente, but I saw him in a lot of video and that’s the guy that I take to heart too. Roberto was a good man.”
The youngest son of Richard and Raquel Arce, Eric’s parents were both athletes.
“My father was a super athlete. He played all sports,” Arce said. “My mother was a track runner. She ‘s more on the genius side. I guess you can say that’s where I got my genes from, my father, and my smarts from my mother. They did a good job. That’s for sure.”
Arce’s oldest brother, Richard Jr., is also an athlete, a boxer who operates a gym in Tampa.
“That’s my best friend right there, my older brother. Without him I don’t know where I would be,” Arce said.
Arce is back in Bluefield after coming first at the end of the 2011 season for a mere six games. In 2012 with the Baby Jays he had eight home runs in 47 games and so far this season he has three long balls in only 18 plate appearances through Wednesday’s game. He talked about his return to Nature’s Air-conditioned City.
“This time I am prepared more, mentally,” Arce said. “I am grateful to be back playing under Dennis (Holmberg). He has taught me a lot, taught me how to be a young man, taught me how to just be a professional. I felt like I had the skills to play at the next level, but the mindset is really, really, really important, if not the most important part for a professional. Day-in and day-out Dennis has held me accountable and he is teaching me the right way. I couldn’t be any more grateful to have that support.”
As with any professional baseball player, Arce’s ultimate goal is to make it to the major leagues. He believes that the Toronto organization is doing all it can to help him reach his goal.
“I believe the Blue Jays have the best of the best when it comes to teaching, instruction, teaching you the game within the game, the game off the field, every aspect of it,” Arce commented. “They do a great job with the one-on-one work, especially with me, the constant practicing defensively, offensively. They really have changed my game tremendously. One of these days I will pay them back. I will make it to ‘The Show.’”
— Contact Bob Redd at