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Tocci ecstatic to share journey with grandma

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- Carmen Reina was at Globe Life Park for Opening Day, again on March 31 when Carlos Tocci played in his first Major League game and last Sunday when collected his first hit.

The tears of joy have been flowing freely.

ARLINGTON -- Carmen Reina was at Globe Life Park for Opening Day, again on March 31 when Carlos Tocci played in his first Major League game and last Sunday when collected his first hit.

The tears of joy have been flowing freely.

"I felt very proud for him because he worked very hard for this," Reina said.

Tocci is the Rangers' fourth outfielder, a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Phillies who made the team out of Spring Training. Reina is his grandmother and the lady who raised him in Maracay, a town of almost one million people near Venezuela's Caribbean coast.

Tocci's father, Javier, is a medicine distributor and his mother, Johana, sells car insurance. Work kept them busy during the week, so Tocci and his younger sister Anna were cared for by their maternal grandmother.

"She is the one who took care of me and took me to all my games," Tocci said. "My parents were both working doing different jobs, so they didn't have time for me. On weekends, all the family was together. But only on weekends."

His grandmother held the family together.

"After school, she took care of me and she always cooked for me," Tocci said. "She is a great cook, I love her pasta alfredo. She was like a mom and a dad to me. She helped me with my homework, she did everything for me. I am so happy that she is here to watch me and be a part of this."

Reina has been watching Tocci play baseball since he was 4 years old. He played soccer until he was 10 and then dropped it to concentrate on baseball. Tocci was on Venezuela's 10-and-under national team that went to Cuba for the Pan American baseball championships and reached the finals.

"We were playing in the finals in Cuba," Tocci said. "I got a base hit to right field to put our team ahead in the fifth inning. We ended up losing the game, but that was a nice moment. I'll always remember that."

Tocci had the big hit in Havana, but the glove is what has carried him this far. He has been a center fielder as long as he can remember.

"Since I was a little kid, I enjoyed playing center field," Tocci said. "I always liked playing defense and catching balls in the outfield. I remember when I was 9 years old, I caught a fly ball that was supposed to be a home run. I made that catch and I was thrilled."

The glove was why Tocci represented Venezuela in three Pan American tournaments and why the Phillies pursued him so hard. The Rangers were also interested, but the Phils were at the head of the line.

"First time I talked to them, I gave them my word that I would go with them," Tocci said.

Tocci stands 6-foot-2 but only weighs 160 pounds. His grandmother may be a great cook, but the pasta alfredo hasn't stuck much to his bones. The Phillies thought, because of his height, that Tocci would fill out and develop power. That hasn't been the case.

Tocci has hit for average in the Minors -- .307 at Double-A Reading last year -- but not for power. He has a career .337 slugging percentage. That's why Tocci was available in the Rule 5 Draft this past offseason.

The Rangers took Tocci for his defense in the hopes that the offense would come around. That's why he is holding down a roster spot, although Drew Robinson is Texas' center fielder.

Tocci came to the Rangers with an air of mystery. He doesn't say much in the clubhouse and needs an interpreter to do interviews. Tocci gets his work done early, stays in the background and waits for a chance to play.

It may be tough to carry Tocci for a full season -- especially when Delino DeShields returns from the disabled list -- but Texas is willing to try. His defensive skills are rated that highly.

"He is a confident kid," manager Jeff Banister said. "He is quiet, but I don't think he is reserved. His eyes are open and his ears are open. He is attentive to the game and hungry for learning. He is always sitting by a coach or talking to a coach about the Major League game. He's got to go through the process of learning, but he has a skill set that will allow him to be a really good Major League player."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Carlos Tocci