When the Lexington Legends made their debut in 2001, Ebert Rosario was 13 and playing Little League ball in the Dominican Republic.
At third base for the Legends that year was Ramon German, from Rosario's hometown of La Romana.
Who would have guessed that, today, Rosario would be playing German's old position for the Legends? Rosario is one of three Legends selected to play in the South Atlantic All-Star Game on Tuesday at Charleston, W.Va. He'll be joined by a pair of 20-year-old right-handed pitchers, Robert Bono and Ross Seaton.
"It was a surprise, but it's a good surprise," Seaton said. "I don't get to go home (Sugar Land, Texas). I'd already made flight (arrangements), but it looks like I'm going to West Virginia instead."
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Also, longtime Legends pitching coach Charley Taylor, who is sitting out the season as he recovers from cancer surgery, was named to the Southern Division coaching staff. Taylor is unable to attend but says he appreciates the honor.
One trait that the Lexington stars have shared this season: consistency.
Rosario, 22, has spent all but two weeks with a batting average of .300 or better. He's hitting .285 with four homers and 24 RBI and has an eight-game hitting streak.
Bono (6-4) has 40 strikeouts to nine walks. His ERA has never been higher than its current 2.27.
Seaton (6-6) has fanned 42 and walked 19. His ERA, 2.57, has never been over 3.00.
"Good for them," Manager Tom Lawless said of his stars. "All three of them deserve it."
The June break is often marked by organization moves. Might his trio be promoted soon?
"They're all gonna be back," Lawless said. "I don't foresee any moves. I think they're gonna let these kids stay here and have some success and enjoy the year."
Rosario isn't exactly a household name. Some teammates don't know how to say his first name. At the plate, he is announced as E-bert Rosario. The correct pronunciation is A-bert.
"We just call him Rosie," hitting coach Pete Rancont said with a smile.
If not Ebert's name, people have taken note of his game.
"I just want to keep going out, working hard every day," he said of his all-star selection. "I wasn't expecting that, but it's good when the people recognize your hard work."
Rosario leads Lexington in hits (68) and total bases (97), shares the lead in doubles (11) and triples (3) and ranks fifth or better in average, homers, RBI, runs and slugging percentage.
"Nobody taught me how to swing a baseball (bat)," Rosario said in recalling his youth. "I started hitting tennis balls with my brother (Roberto) and my friends on the street."
At 10, came Little League; at 14, he was in a program for potential pros; at 18, he signed with Lexington's parent club, the Houston Astros.
"It was good opportunity that the Astros gave me," Rosario said. "I've been taking English class since I signed three or four years ago. I'm taking advantage because I know I need it."
Rosario also has improved in plate discipline and in power.
"He's got a good approach at the plate," Rancont said. "He's been a pretty good two-strike hitter. He will get off-balance sometimes and lose his bearings, but he knows ... his swing a little better than he has in the past and he's able to correct it himself."
Rosario's one notable flaw, though, is his team-high 22 errors. Twice he's made three errors in a game, and twice he's had two-error games.
"I've got to improve in everything," he said. "I'm not a big-leaguer yet, so the (motto) word should be consistence."
Travis Driskill, Taylor's fill-in this season, said Bono and Seaton are typical of the staff. All five starters, and the staff overall, are throwing about 66 percent of their pitches for strikes.
"As a whole, you're hoping for 60 percent," Driskill said. "And when you're beating that down with 6 more percent, that's impressive."
Bono's rise to All-Star status may have caught some observers by surprise. An 11th-round draft pick in 2007, out of Waterford (Conn.) High School, he began his third pro season with an 0-8 record. He struggled with control in 2007, going 0-4 with a 7.34 ERA for Greeneville. He found his control in 2008, yet was a hard-luck 0-4 with a 4.68.
"My first year, it was tough going from high school. Last year, I threw the ball well, made good pitches, but things just didn't fall where they were supposed to," Bono said. "And this year I've just put it all together. Good team behind me. Good bullpen."
Seaton, class valedictorian at Second Baptist High School last year, said his good performances and not-so-good ones have a common theme.
"Keeping the ball down is the biggest key," he said. "Whenever I'm doing poorly, I'm leaving the ball up. It could be three inches, but it's still leaving the ball up.
"If I get the ball down, I do well. So that's what I'm try to master, is learning to keep the ball down."
A future pitching staff valedictorian?