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Amador looks to showcase his power in AFL

Special to

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Paul McCartney has played Mexico City's Foro Sol Stadium. So have Lady Gaga, Pearl Jam, U2 and Justin Bieber. But it seems safe to say none of those stars shined as brightly as Japhet Amador did in his performance there three months ago.

Amador, a 305-pound first baseman for the Mexico City Red Devils, hit three home runs, a ground-rule double, reached on a walk and drove in 10 runs in a 13-10 victory over Quintana Roo on July 6. It is believed to be a franchise record for total bases and RBIs.

Amador had a little something for everyone. His three-run homer in the first inning went to left field, his three-run homer in the seventh went to right-center field and his grand slam in the ninth went to right. His double bounced over the fence in left-center. A right-handed hitter, Amador said using the whole field is important to him, an approach that is part natural, part learned.

"That's where my real power comes," Amador said through his translator, Peoria Javelinas pitching coach Carlos Martinez.

At the same time, Mexican League pitchers tended to fear Amador, who is 6-foot-4, so he understood the necessity of working the ball the other way.

While that display provided an exclamation point, it was Amador's body of work over the last four Mexican League seasons -- 90 homers, 318 RBIs -- that likely persuaded the Houston Astros to sign him to a Minor League contract on Aug. 21.

Amador hit .302 with two RBIs and zero extra-base hits in 10 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City, and the Astros sent him to Peoria of the Arizona Fall League for more work this fall.

He had one hit in his first two games in the AFL, an RBI single on opening night as the cleanup hitter in the Javelinas' 7-6 loss to Surprise on Oct. 8. With San Diego first baseman Tommy Medica also on the Peoria roster, Amador could also see time as a designated hitter.

Amador's immediate goal, he said through Martinez, "is to show the team the kind of player it is getting when he was brought in from Mexico. Hopefully with the numbers he puts up here, he can show the team he deserves at least an invitation to the Spring Training camp with the Minor League team."

It is hard to dispute Amador's power, as the balls that dotted the berm at Salt River Fields after batting practice last week attested. Amador hit 14, 25, 15 and 36 homers a season since joining Mexico City in 2010 after beginning his career with Minatitlan at the age of 20 in 2007.

The difference in pitching at Oklahoma City was immediately noticeable, Amador said.

"The velocity was the main thing," Martinez said in translation. "It was kind of a shock for him to see the hard-throwing pitchers compared to Mexico, where there is a lot of offspeed and breaking balls, stuff like that."

The Peoria coaching staff reminded Amador to be a little bit quicker with his hands to counter that velocity. Amador hopes to enhance his power by losing 15-20 pounds through a workout and diet regiment before Spring Training.

"He is pretty confident he can hit with more power," Martinez translated.

Amador is living a dream he had as a young child growing up in the village of Mulege, Baja California Sur.

"Since he remembers, he dreamed of being a baseball player," Martinez translated.

"Being from a small town, everybody pretty much knows and respects him because of what he does. He is an example for the community where he lives, and he takes that very seriously. What he takes from the community is what he gives back … respect. It's a good example for all the young kids growing up, expecting to play baseball in the future."

Jack Magruder is a contributor to

Houston Astros, Japhet Amador