Despite language barrier, Reyes thrives with Scrappers
NILES -- Turns out, Argenis Reyes' RBI single in the Mahoning Valley Scrappers' season opener, which plated the go-ahead run against Auburn, served as a glimpse of the fourth-year professional's ability.
Reyes, a 21-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic, has feasted on New York-Penn League pitching from the beginning while also staking claim to its basepaths.
A league leader
Going into weekend play, the speedy Reyes was first in league hits (59), second in stolen bases (16) and seventh in batting (.317). He recently had his 23-game hitting streak snapped.
"I don't know if he was aware of leading the league in stolen bases, and I know he wasn't aware of the hitting streak," said Elizabeth Miles, whose family hosts Reyes and three other Scrappers in their Lordstown home.
"He just looks at it like, 'This is what I'm supposed to do.' "
Reyes, who speaks little English, was acquired by the Cleveland Indians as a non-drafted free agent in January 2001. He spent his first two years in the Dominican League before playing at Rookie League Burlington last year.
"Argenis is intense on the field," Miles said. "When he goes in, he's all about getting the job done."
And, according to Miles, Reyes is a joy off it.
"He spends a lot of time in our backyard playing with our kids," Miles said of sons Steven (9) and Johnathan (7). "He has a really pleasant disposition."
Miles was born in Honduras and graduated from high school there. She came to the United States for a college education (Hardin-Simmons University in Texas) and met her future husband, Doug, a North Jackson native who was in the Air Force.
"I've been trying to practice Spanish with [my kids]," Miles said. "The best way is to be constantly around it, in an environment where they had to speak it in order to communicate."
Thus, the Scrappers' host family program has given them the best tool to learn.
In addition to Reyes, the Miles family is hosting Dominican players Teodoro Encarnacion and Hector Santana and San Ysidro, Calif., native Fernando Pacheco.
"People should have more respect for them," Miles said of young, pro baseball players. "They work hard, work long hours and don't get hardly any money.
"Now that they're seen, it doesn't end there," she added. "You have to impress daily, and there's a lot of pressure."
It is within the security of a host family that players can unwind and take their minds off the game -- at least for a short time.
The players like to dance and shop. Encarnacion likes to play jokes on Steven and Johnathan, while Santana likes to cook.
All share the same dream of making it to the major leagues.
"The lifestyle is not all that glamorous," Miles said. "They don't get the rewards of being a major league baseball player until they are. They have to pay their dues; that's what they're doing."