Before he pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star Futures Game Sunday at Citi Field, Yankees prospect Rafael De Paula said through a translator: "I want to be in Yankee Stadium. I would like to go today.''
That was not a metaphor from a 22-year-old Class A pitcher about his urgency to reach the big leagues. He actually was hoping to at least drive by the Stadium after the game because he never had seen it. He never had been in New York before this weekend.
He might be on his way to making the Bronx his regular address. The righthander from the Dominican Republic has a strong, live arm with which he has struck out 108 batters (against only 28 walks) in 79 innings with Charleston and Tampa this year.
De Paula does need some refinement, as shown by the single he allowed and the batter he hit with a pitch Sunday. That is to be expected from someone who missed an entire year because of a suspension resulting from inconsistencies in his age and name documentation, followed by visa problems.
For months, he could do nothing but throw bullpen sessions.
"I'm not used to it like that, but that's why I work so hard to be back in the game,'' De Paula said. "I'm ready to work. I'm staying positive about that. If you work hard, you will rise.''
After the World team's 4-2 loss to the United States, he acknowledged: "Sometimes I lost control, but I stayed around the zone. I think I pitched well.''
The experience of pitching in New York energized him.
"I know New York maybe will be my home soon. I stay positive and am working really hard for that,'' he said. "This was a wonderful experience. I hope that I will be back, but in the real All-Star Game.''