Salas excels on diamond, in virtual classroom

January 4th, 2022

MIAMI -- Teenagers ' age are counting down the days until they're done with high school or their freshman year of college. But Salas, who signed with the Marlins as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2019, is on a different path as he pursues a professional baseball career.

The 18-year-old Salas was born in Kissimmee, Fla., and grew up in nearby Orlando. Baseball runs in his blood, with his grandfather, uncle and dad playing in Venezuela. As a result, Salas traveled a lot as a kid, tagging along with his mother to follow his father's teams. He went from a private school to Florida Virtual School (FLVS) about four years ago to continue his education during a stretch that included time in both Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

After stints at the Florida Complex League and Low-A Jupiter in his first professional campaign in 2021, Salas has resumed his studies. He tends to stay away from them during the season because of his atypical schedule. But come the offseason, Salas makes sure to always have a book with him, even when he travels.

"Just always wanted to be ahead in the game, always looking to do more, and sometimes it just gets me a little bit away from baseball whenever I'm not doing anything on the field," Salas said. "So it keeps me focused in a way during the offseason. I'm looking forward to something during the offseason instead of just sitting around."

Ranked as Miami's No. 10 prospect, Salas spends around three to four hours a day on subjects like English, math and science -- with math the one he has to study the most for, and science as his favorite. He considers himself a visual learner, and he either uses his computer at home or goes to the library to meet somebody.

Salas' coursework is independent of the Marlins' education department, which enrolls students who haven't finished their studies (middle school and high school) in one of two platforms. According to manager of education services Pamela Mejia, the department is always available to provide any study resources Salas may need or to help if and when he has questions.

"We typically support players in formal education and language learning," manager of player care and service Colleen Mitchell wrote in an email. "Salas has always been a unique 'student' for us since he is already fully bilingual but needed to finish his high school education."

Though Salas doesn't participate in language classes regularly, he sometimes attends as a special guest in order to assist his teammates with activities. He also takes part in workshops that the education program hosts. After the 2021 Draft, for example, the department organized a workshop to help prepare incoming players for the different cultures they would experience in clubhouses. Salas shared his Venezuelan culture as well as insight on competing in leagues with players from all over the world.

The goal of the Marlins' education initiative is to provide life skills that will develop players as young men and athletes. Aside from the work with language learning and formal education, there is professional development and community service.

"I really love helping my teammates with that kind of stuff, the bilingual stuff," Salas said. "At the end of the day, we're a team and we all have to communicate, we all have to be on the same page. So that's really the top priority when it comes to what Colleen and all of our teachers are doing here in Miami: getting everybody to communicate and learn each other's language. That brings us closer to each other as brothers. We see each other more than we see our families, so we've got to create that brotherhood, we have to communicate and we have to find a way to really get to know each other more than just as players."

That process continued in October, when Salas trained at the fall development camp at loanDepot park alongside other top hitting prospects. The experience further motivated the shortstop to reach The Show following an impressive pro debut. At the FCL, the switch-hitter slashed .370/.458/.511 in 28 games prior to going .250/.333/.315 in 27 games for the Hammerheads while facing competition more than three years older. For now, Salas isn't getting ahead of himself. His baseball-playing father advised him as much, saying to enjoy the moment because it flies by.

So in the meantime, Salas aims to earn his GED in 2022. He traces being a good student -- then and now -- to his parents, who ensured he focused on going to school and getting an education despite moving around so much.

"My mom's always taught me after baseball I have to be stable with myself," said Salas, who is interested in working in real estate like his mother. "It's good to have a Plan A. Don't get me wrong, Plan A is No. 1, but you've got to be realistic after Plan A with a Plan B. Always got to be set up with a good Plan B."