By Jason Cole, Lone Star Dugout
Reprinted with permission of the author
The Texas Rangers signed outfielder Luke Salas as an undrafted free agent nearly two weeks after the 2007 amateur draft. A native of Santa Monica, California, Salas was surprised his name was not called during the two-day event.
"My junior year I turned down a chance to go with the Diamondbacks in the 19th round," said Salas. "My senior year I had multiple teams talking to me and for whatever reason it didn't happen. But that's alright, I'm here."
Although the outfielder admits being passed over in the draft was disappointing, he kept working in hopes of landing a free agent deal.
"When you don't get a phone call on draft day, it definitely enters your mind," said Salas when asked if he thought his career was in doubt. "But that's not the type of person I am. I try to eliminate that negative thought and hope for the best. I kept preparing like something good was going to happen and luckily it did."
A four-year starter at Pepperdine, Salas was a consistent producer in each of his seasons. Though he did not hit for much power, he amassed a career .305 batting average, including a .298 mark in his senior campaign.
While he certainly liked playing for a top-notch collegiate program, Salas also enjoyed the perks of going to school in Malibu.
"Four years at Pepperdine was awesome," said Salas, who appeared in 245 total games for the Waves. "They were definitely four of the best years I've had so far. Being able to wake up with the Pacific Ocean in my window was pretty sweet. My senior year, I lived 100 yards from the beach."
Malibu wouldn't be the only interesting place Salas was able to play baseball while he was in college. The 22-year-old was able to play in a collegiate wood bat league during the summer of 2005. It was an experience he is unlikely to soon forget.
"I wish everyone could get to do that," said Salas. "It was my first time fishing. You could see snow on the mountains in July. Coming from Southern California, snow is not something I see quite often. It was incredible getting to see moose, king salmon, and big bears. It was pretty cool."
Since Salas has signed with the Rangers, he has bounced between the Rookie League Arizona Rangers and the Short-Season Spokane Indians. In 13 games with the AZL Rangers, Salas has hit .383 with two doubles, one triple, and one home run. However, in 10 contests with the Indians, the outfielder is just 6-for-30 with one double and one triple.
The native Californian is happy with his season so far, and he believes having former collegiate teammates such as Kea Kometani and Chad Tracy in the Rangers organization has helped him make the adjustment to professional baseball.
"I think I'm doing well," explained Salas. "I'm just trying to stay consistent and work hard. Having older friends in the system helps. They've told me I just have to put my work in and let the rest take care of itself. That's really what it comes down to, just working hard every day."
When he's at the plate, the 5-foot-11 Salas tries to be patient and hit the ball up the middle.
"I always want to be the aggressor," said Salas. "I don't want the pitcher to get in counts that are suitable for him to throw what he wants to throw. My approach is always to try to work the middle."
A left-handed hitter, Salas says he has worked on shortening his swing since joining the Rangers organization.
"I'm just working on staying short and quick," said Salas of his swing. "No matter how short you are, you can always get shorter."
One of Salas' assets is his versatility in the field, a trait that every professional organization finds valuable.
"I can play all three," said Salas when asked about his natural position. "In high school I played center, in college I played center and left, and here I've played some right. Honestly where ever they put me I'd like to say I can play it."