On June 11, Joel Toribio was back home in the Bronx, New York, enjoying his summer break and getting a much needed vacation from Western Oklahoma State College’s grueling baseball season.
He was with his barber “Menor” — a nickname meaning minor in Spanish — getting his haircut when his WOSC teammate, Frankely Gonzalez, informed him the Los Angeles Dodgers selected him in the 34th round of the Major League Baseball Draft.
“It was a crazy experience and I feel very blessed. It was my birthday actually,” said Toribio. “So it was the best birthday present I have ever had.”
Just like that, Toribio’s dream had come true.
After playing only six months at WOSC and posting 55 strikeouts, a 5.73 earned run average in 15 appearances and 37 and two-thirds innings, Toribio was off to the MLB.
Toribio was flown to Glendale, Arizona, where he has been with his new team at the Camelback Ranch — the spring training home of the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers — training and doing whatever is necessary to show the Dodgers that he belongs in L.A.
The atmosphere there has been quite a bit different for him, thanks in large part to Arizona’s 120 degree climate, but also because this the MLB. It is a much different beast.
While Toribio has not yet seen any playing time, he has been taking part in a training program. He has spent his days in Glendale lifting weights and throwing a bullpen routine, and if it will help him stay on top of his game, he is all over it.
Although he has to adjust some to his new life, he says it has been easy for the most part.
“I have always traveled and met people throughout my baseball career,” Toribio said. “So it was easy to adjust to that and our program at Western helped me a lot too because it showed us how to be accepting and how to always get along with people from different races and backgrounds.”
Toribio plans to continue working hard — he says it is one thing he has always been good at — and he plans on playing in L.A. with the Dodgers in the near future. However, he would not at all be disappointed if he stopped through Oklahoma City and played with the OKC Dodgers on his way to L.A.
Right now, he is just enjoying the experience. He is learning a great deal and developing his game so that one day he can achieve his ultimate goal of playing in the MLB.
Besides playing in the MLB, Toribio also hopes to graduate from college. It is something that is just as important to him and his family, and his instructors and coaches in Altus have a lot to do with that.
“I really enjoyed my time at Western. The professors and staff members always loved and cared about the students and were always willing to lend a hand and help when it was needed,” he said. “My coaches were the best I ever had and taught me so much, and I would especially like to thank Coach Kurt Russell. Because he opened the door for me to come play at Western and helped me become a man. I learned a lot, but most importantly, that nothing in life is easy.”
From here, Toribio will continue to train and wait for his opportunity to get the call to come up to L.A. It is an opportunity he is ready for.
When asked about one thing he will never forget about his time at WOSC, Toribio remembered.
“My favorite memory at Western would have to be the day we were going to the (College) World Series and we were walking down the hall and everyone was cheering for us,” he said. “It was amazing.”
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.