Jose Molina welcomes Puerto Rican baseball academy to Rays camp
For one day, at least, catcher Jose Molina was not the only Puerto Rican in Rays camp.
Descending on the practice fields of Charlotte Sports Park on Wednesday was a group of 31 ballplayers, grades 7 through 12, from Next Level America Academy in eastern Puerto Rico. Jose, surprised by their arrival, quickly rolled out the red carpet. He signed autographs and took individual photos with the entire group, then allowed them on the outfield to take a group photo after the Rays finished BP. Ben Zobrist, Luke Scott and James Loney even stopped by to say hi.
During the young athletes' 22-day adventure in Florida they will perform a showcase for college coaches, play 15 games-including one at IMG Academy in Bradenton-and visit every Grapefruit League camp.
The Molina family is baseball royalty in Puerto Rico. A few days ago at Cardinals camp, the Next Level kids met Jose's brothers, All-Star backstop Yadier and former catcher Bengie Molina, now St. Louis' assistant hitting coach. In a couple weeks, Jose and Yadier will suit up for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
-- Dave Haller