Hawks pitcher Medina has made most of his few opportunities to impress

Javier Medina thows a pitch against Salem-Keizer at Memorial Stadium on Tuesday.
Javier Medina thows a pitch against Salem-Keizer at Memorial Stadium on Tuesday.

He pitched just 37 innings of high school baseball, yet Javier Medina showed enough to warrant a third-round selection by the Colorado Rockies last June.

A native of Hermosillo, Mexico, Medina grew up playing for a traveling baseball team based out of Nogales, Ariz. Before he was set to begin high school, he told teammate Vinnie Tarantola, a Tucson, Ariz., native, he wanted to go to school in the United States.

Tarantola brought it up with his family, and they asked Medina and catcher Cesar Salazar (now starring at the University of Arizona) to live with them in Tucson. Shifting eligibility rules prevented Medina from playing his first two years at Sahuaro High and ended his senior season more than halfway through.

“I knew there was a chance I couldn’t play that first year, but it was really tough playing only two-thirds of a season in three years after moving,” Medina said.

But in the back of his mind, Medina knew he had a shot at playing baseball at a high level. He committed to Arizona but opted to sign with the Rockies after he was the 77th overall pick in last year’s draft. Playing in summer leagues and showcases, along with being able to still throw simulated games, kept him on the radar.

“Right place, right time,” Medina said. “I’m really happy I got seen by the right people.”

The 19-year-old Medina made his first appearance for the Boise Hawks on Tuesday night, putting up a solid performance, allowing one earned run in five innings while striking out four, walking one and giving up five hits.

A self-described “command guy,” the 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander has a solid frame and has potential to put some heat on his pitches.

“He might grow another inch or two, lean out a little bit,” Hawks pitching coach Doug Jones said. “This is the first time he’s been in a true strength program, so that’ll help. You like his age, being able to hit the low 90s quite a bit and that he’s got a pretty smooth delivery.”

Though his opportunity to come to the United States came through baseball, it wasn’t always Medina’s intent to use it as a springboard to further opportunities in the sport. His parents stressed education, and the Tarantolas said, “B is for baseball. Anything worse than that, we couldn’t play, so it wasn’t different than being at home.”

“For me, my dream was to come to school here. I wanted to learn the language better, get a better education — baseball became a bigger part of it later on,” Medina said. “When I got drafted, the very first thing my parents asked was, ‘Will they pay for school?’ They were totally OK for me to play right away, as long as I went back and got my degree when I was done.”

Medina signed a $740,000 bonus last year and went 1-3 with a 6.82 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings in rookie ball in Grand Junction, Colo. Despite his youth, he’s a strong presence in the clubhouse, using his bilingualism to translate and get along with just about anyone.

“He’s a great kid, helped a lot. We’ve gone to him all the time helping us communicate with the Latin kids, which he’s never complained about, and he’s been big for letting those players get comfortable, too,” Jones said.

Added manager Andy Gonzalez: “very smart, very determined, work ethic’s good, too.”

Fated to wind up with the Rockies, Medina was inspired to play baseball after watching former Colorado third baseman Vinny Castilla play in Hermosillo, even wearing the same number growing up.

“Some people told me the minors can be tough, but I’m really enjoying this,” Medina said.

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @IDS_Southorn

Hawks 4, Volcanoes 2

The Boise Hawks picked up their first home win of the season Tuesday, topping the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 4-2 at Memorial Stadium.

Outfielder Steven Linkous drove in Eric Toole in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead, and outfielder Bobby Stahel added the Hawks' second home run of the season in the eighth inning.

Javier Medina got the win for Boise (2-3), striking out four while giving up one earned run in five innings. Toole was 2-for-2 at the plate.