Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Miguel Almonte dreamed of playing pro baseball in the United States.
Check that one off for the Lexington Legends right-hander.
Coming into this, his third season as a pro and second in the States, he says he dreamed of being selected for the All-Star Futures Game.
Check that one off, too.
Almonte, 20, is among four South Atlantic League players selected to participate in the 15th Futures Game, which is part of Major League Baseball's All-Star week festivities. The Futures Game is Sunday, July 14, two days before the All-Star Game at the New York Mets' Citi Field.
Also representing the SAL will be Hickory infielder Joey Gallo on Team USA. Almonte will be joined on the World team by Hickory catcher Jorge Alfaro and West Virginia infielder Dilson Herrera, both Colombians.
"All my friends are happy that I'm going," Almonte said in Spanish, with teammate Michael Antonio serving as interpreter. "People tell me that I'm going to go there, represent the Dominican Republic and represent the organization in Kansas City. All my friends are talking about it, and I just can't wait to start playing."
Of course, there's no guarantee Almonte will play.
"The Futures Game, it's feast or famine," Legends pitching coach Jerry Nyman said. "It's going to depend on when he gets in, or if he gets put in, and who he's facing and when he's facing who he's facing. So the significance of it is more of the fact that you were chosen than what actually happens during the game."
A 6-foot-2, 180-pounder, Almonte took a 3-6 record and a 3.39 ERA over 15 starts into Friday night's game at West Virginia. He has struck out 80 while walking 27 over 792⁄3 innings.
"He's got good stuff. He's got a good change-up, a good slider and a real live fastball," Legends Manager Brian Buchanan said. "The past couple starts, he's been real aggressive. Starting for us (June 25), he struck out 12 and didn't walk any. He pitched real well.
"He's doing a good job for us this year and he's got electric stuff, so it's good for him to be able to get that experience to be able to go to this game."
Almonte and three brothers were raised in Santiago, where he still lives with his parents.
Although his English is limited, he's able to communicate with teammates and coaches.
"There are little things that I know that help me communicate," he said.
Added Nyman: "I've been in the game a long time, so I have a basic understanding of Spanish; I don't profess to speak Spanish. And, obviously, over the years I've learned enough of the Spanish vernacular dealing with pitching that we can talk. But he speaks and understands more English than he leads on."
"Obviously, neither of us are fluent in each other's tongue, but we have bilingual people. So if ever there's an in-depth detail subject we have to converse on, I go get some help."
Asked to tell something that his English-only teammates might not know about him, Almonte answered "rap." Upon request, he ticked off a catchy rhyme in Spanish.
The real rap riff on him, though, deals with pitching.
Nyman says Almonte "brought a lot to the table" when he became a Legend.
After throwing for the Dominican Summer League Royals in 2011 and part of 2012, Almonte finished last season with the Surprise Royals of the Arizona League. He finished the year a combined 8-2, earning DSL all-star honors and team Pitcher of the Year honors.
"Obviously he's getting better and smarter as he pitches. But he was a fine, fine prospect when he got here," Nyman said. "I haven't done a lot with him because of the package that was delivered here on opening day. He's had some nights when he's struggled a little bit, but everybody struggles a little bit. He's very mechanically sound, he's intelligent and he competes well. So there really hasn't been a lot to do. The only credit I can take is I've been smart enough not to do anything."
Almonte says he has improved this season, though.
"Working, and knowing when I'm doing something wrong, just keep on working at it until I know it's better," he said. "I'm happy that this is my first year playing 'A' ball, and I appreciate all the fans, all the support I get."
Spoken like a Futures star.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com