Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Sun
Sunday, March 17, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Texas Rangers minor league infielder Drew Robinson was preparing to take batting practice Saturday afternoon at Cashman Field when Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux walked over and put his arm around the young prospect for a quick conversation.
It was a big afternoon for Robinson, a 2010 Silverado High graduate playing in front of family and friends in his hometown for the Rangers’ Big League Weekend series with the Chicago Cubs. Maddux, of course, is also from Las Vegas.
“Where did you go to high school?” Maddux asked Robinson.
They enjoyed a quick conversation about their local days, with Maddux pointing toward the left field fence when telling Robinson where he went to high school. Rancho High is less than a mile from Cashman Field.
Robinson wasn’t the lone former local in uniform this weekend with the Rangers. Joey Gallo, a 2012 Bishop Gorman graduate, is one of the organization’s rising stars, excelling last summer in the minor leagues after being picked 39th in the June draft.
“This is a really cool experience,” said Gallo, a corner infielder. “This time last year, I was getting ready for high school senior year. Now, I’m with the big league club here at Cashman. It’s kind of a shocker.”
The left-handed Gallo is considered one of the Rangers’ top prospects by Baseball America, belting 22 home runs and driving in 52 runs in 59 games last year in his debut professional season.
At times, it must have felt was like he was still dominating local competition in Gorman’s Southwest League.
Earlier that year, he batted .509 with 21 home runs and 80 RBIs to help the Gaels capture their seventh straight state title and win state player of the year honors.
Gallo made the transition to the minors look easy. The 6-foot-5 power hitter set an Arizona Rookie League record with 18 home runs in 43 games to win the league’s player of the year honors. He finished the season with Texas’ low Single-A affiliate in Spokane, Wash.
“I really was ready for it and ready to prove to people I could hit professional pitching,” he said.
Robinson, who last season batted .273 with 13 home runs and 67 RBIs for the Rangers’ High-A affiliate in Hickory, N.C., and Gallo never crossed paths during the youth and high school playing days in Las Vegas. But now prospects in the same organization they share the common goal of trying to reach the big leagues and representing Las Vegas.
“I’ve gotten to know him a bit and he’s a pretty cool guy,” Robinson said. “We both like coming here and working every day to get better.”
Both came off the bench Saturday in the Rangers’ 5-1 loss to the Cubs. Gallo, who is batting .500 in spring training games, played third base and doubled in his lone at bat. Robinson played first base and struck out in his lone plate appearance.
Even if Gallo would have hit a home run Saturday in front of family and friends, it probably wouldn’t have been his favorite moment at Cashman Field. Gorman played most of its home games at Cashman Field during Gallo’s freshman year, and Gallo fondly remembers a long home run he hit over the fence in right-center. It was a pretty cool moment for a 15-year-old.
“It was probably the best home run I have hit so far. Still,” Gallo said. “It was so unexpected for a little freshman to hit a home run out of here. It was probably my biggest accomplishment home run wise. I remember it to this day, going over the 365 sign in right-center.”
The Big League Weekend continues at 1 p.m. Saturday with the Cubs and Rangers playing again.