Ambidextrous local grad Carlos Cortes earns a pick from the New York Mets in this summer’s Major League Baseball Draft.
Carlos Cortes first started taking baseball seriously when he began playing in the Oviedo Little League at the tender age of seven. That year, Carlos also discovered that his father, Juan, took it even more seriously.
About midway through the season, the left-handed Carlos broke his left elbow and had to wear a cast for a couple of months. Instead of watching his son sit on the bench, Juan said he “started thinking of options.” He asked Todd Cluxton, then president of the Oviedo Little League, if he could get special permission for Carlos to continue to play with his cast on. The plan would only work, though, if Carlos learned how to throw the ball with his right hand.
Little Carlos, who played first base, would field the ball as he normally did – with the glove on his right hand – and then he’d put the glove down, pick up the ball with his right hand, and make the throw.
“He started getting used to throwing with his right hand,” Juan says, “and after that, I encouraged him to throw a little bit that way every time we practiced.”
Even though Carlos protested through many of those practices, the extra work definitely paid off. By the time he was a teenager, Carlos was proficient in throwing with both arms – using his left when he pitched or played in the outfield and using his right when he played in the infield.
After several years of Little League stardom, Carlos played three seasons at Lake Howell High School (2013, 2014, and 2016) and one season (2015) at Oviedo High – where he helped the Lions win the school’s first state baseball championship. During his high-school career, Carlos played center field, first base, second base, and catcher. As a senior at Lake Howell, he was also the team’s closing pitcher.
After Carlos played two seasons as an outfielder at the University of South Carolina, the New York Mets selected him in the third round of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft, and he is now truly living his dream as a professional baseball player.
“It’s been awesome,” says Carlos, 21, who is currently playing second base for the Brooklyn Cyclones – the Mets’ minor league team in the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League. “This is the thing that you dream about. This is the life that I wanted to live, and I love it.”
It’s much easier now for Carlos to look back and realize how all the hard work his father put him through was worth it in the end.
“My dad has always been pretty hard on me,” Carlos says, “but he was holding me accountable, making sure I put forth my best effort and worked hard. My dad knew this was my dream and was going to do everything he could to help me reach it. My dad just cares about me and wants me to succeed.”
Juan, who was born in Puerto Rico, had some brushes with the law when he was younger, and that was one of the reasons he was so hard on his two kids – Carlos and older sister Sahrina, who graduated this year from the University of Tampa, where she played softball for the Spartans.
When it came to Carlos and his baseball career, Juan did plenty of research. He discovered that left-handed players were generally limited to playing first base, outfield, and pitcher, and Juan wanted his son to have more options. He was determined to turn his son into a rarity in baseball: an ambidextrous thrower.
“He’d fight me tooth and nail, but he did everything I asked him to do,” says Juan, who lives in Oviedo with his wife, Carlos’s mom Karina. “He was always talking about wanting to be a Major League Baseball player, and I was trying to create the best avenue for him to do that.”
Now that Carlos is achieving his goal, he is determined to get the most out of the experience. And if he does make it to the big leagues – and gets the chance to play for the Mets at Citi Field – no one will be cheering louder than Juan.
“It’s a marathon; you can’t sprint it out,” Carlos says of the required progression through the minor leagues. “I just have to work hard and stay consistent, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
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