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Carlos Delgado: Model player

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Carlos Delgado:
model player

Photos and story by J. H. Dama

He strolled out of the visitors dugout last August before a game at Tiger Stadium, his muscular build drawing glances. From the stands some girls cooed, "Oooooo Carlos" to the Toronto Blue Jays' first baseman. Carlos Delgado didn't bat an eye.

His closely shaven scalp glistened from the days heat, yet he appeared cool and focused. Delgado is not fond of wearing the woollen cap, citing that it irritates him. The girls continued to coo and giggle attempting to distract the handsome Delgado. He finally glanced over, cocking his eyebrow with a slight smirk on his face and playfully mocked them. His trademark grin extended across his face showing his glistening teeth. The girls squealed in delight.

What you see is what you get with Delgado on and off the field, commented former Blue Jays' manager Cito Gaston. "He doesn't hide his personality in the clubhouse or off the field," Gaston added. "If you had a son you'd like him to be like Carlos." This is the same Delgado who would scoop a hat off a reporters head and then tease them, or heckle his teammates during batting practice with such lines as "Who do you think you are? Joe Carter?"

The young Puerto Rican came to the Jays in 1994, after signing with them in October, 1988, at the age of 16. His minor league career started with St. Catharines in 1989, followed by Myrtle Beach, Dunedin and Knoxville. He also spent some time in Syracuse with the Jays' AAA team. The Jays knew they had something special by the time he debuted with them in 1994.

Former AA manager, Garth Iorg, admitted to seeing the talent level and the great athletic skills in Delgado. "Carlos is a great consummate power hitter for years to come in major league baseball. He is the kind of guy to carry a team on his back offensively for weeks at a time."

Gaston confirmed that in 1994 Delgado, a left-fielder at the time, "got off to a great start as far as hitting and home runs." In 43 games he had 9 home runs and 24 RBIs with 25 walks, but was sent down to Syracuse with the 1994 strike ending the Major League season. In 1995 he made the team out of spring training but was again sent down. Gaston admitted, "a lot of kids get discouraged when they get sent down, (but) he went down there and just got better."

In 1996 Delgado joined the club for the entire season, mostly as designated hitter. Following the departure of John Olerud in the off season Delgado became the Jays every day first baseman.

Delgado explained that as a first baseman "people don't realize it's a little harder than what it really looks like. There's a lot of things you got to do. Almost every throw goes to you so that keeps you in the game. It's so much easier to stay loose when you come to hit." He added, "if you have a bad day at the plate you can contribute on the field. When you're D-Hing you sit around two or three innings then you got to crank it up to hit."

Willie Upshaw, the Jays former batting coach, admitted Delgado's playing every day and facing left-handed pitchers made him a better player.

Delgado acknowledged that "it was hard at the beginning facing them (lefties) for the first time, because I didn't face them that much (in 1996). (But) it's a good feeling just coming to the ballpark knowing you're gonna play and that's great for your confidence." He prepares for left-handers the same way he prepares for any pitcher, by reviewing the scouting reports and studying his pitch. "The only difference is the guy throwing batting practice will be left-handed."

Delgado has hit some of the most impressive home runs ever hit by a Jay. He became the second Blue Jay to tag Windows Restaurant at SkyDome with a home run and joined an elite group of batters to have cleared the roof of Tiger Stadium.

So far Delgado has worn many numbers as a Jay. With the signing of Roger Clemens for the 1996 season Delgado gave up the number 21 on his uniform when he was offered a Rolex watch in exchange for it. He now sports the number 25 on his back, and at the age of 25 had his most successful season to date. A highlight for Delgado in 1997 was staying healthy, after having off season surgery on both his wrist and his knee.

"My wrist was the one thing I was scared of because that's the bread and butter for me." Now Delgado does take precautions when playing, he wears a knee pad on his knee to cushion the scar tissue for sliding and also has a wrist band. "Over the course of the year you take about 500-550 at bats, that's a lot of swings, plus BP and extra batting practice you want to have a little extra support there."

Besides his health Delgado said, "there's gonna be good times and bad times. When the good times come you got to ride it as long as you can. And when the bad times come you got to battle and try to get out of there as soon as you can." Already this season Delgado has missed playing with the Jays, due to tearing a muscle in his shoulder. The injury occurred during a winter ball game in his native Puerto Rico on January 4. He is expected to return by the end of April, over a month ahead of schedule.

As a youth, Delgado played baseball because as he said "everybody plays baseball." He credited his parents for instilling values and confidence in him when growing up. They are "always there for us to give advice or just to say no." He remains close to his family saying he and his three siblings all still live in the same house. His oldest and youngest sisters attend university with an undeclared major and he considers his younger brother the "lazy" one.

Whistling like a plane, he admitted that as soon as the season ends he hops on the first plane to head home. In the future he may look into attending school for computers or business but knows baseball his career.

When he is away from the ballpark he chooses to do things as far removed from the sport as possible. Stressing he is not one to golf, he relaxes by attending a show, or dining out or lazing at home with his CDs. His strong love for movies propels him to see as many as he can. Some of his favourite actors include Harrison Ford, Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. His favourite down-time activity is shopping though, especially for clothes.

Anybody who has seen Delgado realizes he wears everything from a uniform to a suit with pride. At 6'3" 225 lbs., with dark brown eyes and a razzle-dazzle smile, sometimes framed by a goatee, Delgado reminds one of a runway model. But the only modeling that would interest him is product endorsement.

The model first baseman for the Jays headed back into the visitors dugout to prepare for the game. The girls continued calling to him. "Carlos come over here -- Please!" "I got to go in now," Delgado answered them. "Ahhhh," the girls cried. He flashed them his wickedly mesmerizing grin and shrugged his shoulders, walking into the dugout.

©Published in the St. Clair College Journal on April 23, 1998 and dedicated to Carlos Delgado.

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