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Baseball, family focus of top pick Lindor

Baseball, family focus of top pick Lindor

Baseball, family focus of top pick Lindor
CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor was surrounded by family when Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced the young shortstop's name on Monday night. It was a surreal moment, and Lindor struggled to hold his emotions in check.

"I put my hands on my face and I got teary-eyed," Lindor said. "My family -- my dad and my mom -- they gave me a hug. They thanked me and congratulated me. It was a really great feeling in that moment."

The Indians selected Lindor -- a 17-year-old shortstop out of Montverde Academy in Florida -- with the eighth overall pick during the First-Year Player Draft. It took a lot of hard work by Lindor, and plenty of sacrifice by his family, for the prep star to see his lifelong dream come to fruition.

Lindor has been on a path to the Major Leagues -- at least that was his goal when, at 12 years old, he and his father said goodbye to family and friends, left their home in Puerto Rico and headed to Florida for better baseball opportunities. Lindor spoke no English when he arrived and enrolled at Montverde, a renowned boarding school that draws students from around the world.

"It was hard," Lindor said of leaving his childhood home. "But I got used to it."

Over the course of the past five years, Lindor has worked to become bilingual and decided that learning to hit from both sides of the plate was a good idea, too. Now, even at such a young age, Lindor has turned himself into an elite talent, one that Cleveland hopes to have manning shortstop in the big leagues some day.

"I've heard a lot of good stuff about Lindor," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Friends of mine that are in the industry told me that this kid has the chance to be the best position player out of the Draft. High risk, high reward."

Acta's last words might also apply to the chances of signing Lindor.

As things currently stand, Lindor is committed to Florida State University. The shortstop said that he was extremely honored to be selected by the Indians, but he chose his words carefully when asked if he expected to sign with the organization.

"We'll see what's going to happen," Lindor said. "I can't predict the future. Right now, I'm just happy I got picked."

It is worth noting that the eighth pick in the 2010 Draft, high school outfielder Delino DeShields Jr., signed for $2.125 million with the Astros. Cleveland's top choice last June, college left-hander Drew Pomeranz, was picked fifth overall and received a $2.65 million bonus.

Lindor's agent helped another high schooler, third baseman Nick Castellanos, net a $3.45 million payday after being selected 44th overall by Detroit last June.

The Indians have gone up to $3 million only twice: Jeremy Guthrie signed for $3 million in 2004 and Danys Baez agreed for $4.5 million in 1999. That said, Cleveland showed a willingness to pay over slot value last June, and the club seems confident that Lindor will indeed enter its farm system.

"He wants to play pro ball," said Indians director of amateur scouting Brad Grant. "Baseball has been his life."

Perhaps Grant will have former Indians All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar give Lindor a call. Alomar -- also a native of Puerto Rico -- was one of Lindor's favorite players growing up. Lindor even wore No. 12 in honor of the newly anointed Hall of Famer.

"He's one of the reasons I was really honored to be picked by Cleveland," Lindor said.

During his senior year at Montverde, Lindor hit .528 (28-for-53) with six home runs, 13 RBIs, 20 stolen bases and 31 runs scored. The Indians firmly believe that the 5-foot-11, 170-pound infielder is so strong defensively that there is no question that he can stay at shortstop for his career.

Tim Layden, Lindor's high school coach and a former Minor League pitcher, will not argue that assessment.

"He single-handedly won us probably four games alone," Layden said, "just on the plays that he made at pivotal points in games."

Layden also insisted that Lindor could have been more of a run producer with increased power numbers had he batted the shortstop in the middle of the lineup. Instead, Layden kept Lindor as his leadoff man, and the young hitter adjusted his approach accordingly.

"He understands how to work counts," Layden said. "He can hit for average from both sides or the plate, as well as power. Everybody wants to question his ability to drive a ball out of the yard."

Layden then reminds such critics that Lindor won a home run-hitting contest during the Aflac All-American Game at San Diego's PETCO Park in 2010. Lindor was just 16 years old at the time. A year before that, Lindor helped lead the United States Under-16 team to a gold medal in Taiwan.

"He's 17," Layden said, "but he carries himself like a 10-year vet in the big leagues. He's just real quiet, real confident."

All of this is only one side of Lindor, though.

Baseball is just part of what defines him. His family always comes first.

Lindor was pushed on the field by his older brother, Miguel, and an older cousin, Christian. He has two sisters -- one with multiple sclerosis. His father, who used to play semi-pro baseball, deals with post-traumatic stress. His mom worked two jobs to help pay for his schooling.

If Lindor does sign with the Indians, he knows exactly what he will do with his newfound wealth.

"Help my family," he said.

To have them there when he was drafted meant the world to Lindor.

"I was really happy," Lindor said. "Really, really happy."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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