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For Indians Draft pick Palacios, the grind pays dividends

MLB.com @wboor

Draft day is a day for celebration. It's a time when a players' dreams are realized and they get a chance to reflect on their accomplishments with their family and friends.

For Richie Palacios, the celebration lasted all of two hours.

Draft day is a day for celebration. It's a time when a players' dreams are realized and they get a chance to reflect on their accomplishments with their family and friends.

For Richie Palacios, the celebration lasted all of two hours.

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While most athletes utter some form of the "now the real work begins" cliché after they are selected, few take the mantra as literally as Palacios did after the Indians selected him in the third round (103rd overall) of the 2018 MLB Draft, making him the highest-drafted position player in Towson history.

"About two hours after the Draft, after my name was called, I went straight to the batting cage with my dad and got some swings in because the grind started again," Palacios said.

Work ethic has certainly helped the infielder get this far in his career, and the Indians feel it could also be what pushes him over the top at the next level as he tries to work him way to the big leagues.

"We understand that the separator is who you are off the field," Scott Barnsby, the Indians' director of amateur scouting, said. "You have to be self-aware, motivated and driven, and Richie is every one of those."

So where does Palacios get his drive?

Take a quick look at his family and the answer is clear.

"I took a quote out of Derek Jeter's father's [book]," Richard Palacios, Richie's dad, said. "Derek Jeter was always pursuing the roses, but he never stopped to smell them. I think that's so true in the game of baseball, you can't stop to smell the roses. You have to keep moving."

The Palacioses are certainly a bunch that keeps moving, as Richie is the fourth member of the family to play baseball professional.

His father spent time in the Tigers' system, his brother is currently an outfielder in the Blue Jays' organization and his uncle spent parts of three seasons with the Royals -- working his way to the Majors after signing as an undrafted free agent.

"His journey was definitely a grind, going from a free agent to the Major Leagues, so he's just told me to always keep working."

In addition to heeding the advice of his uncle, Palacios has also been able to draw motivation from the example set forth by his parents. After working 10- to 12-hour days growing up, Richard -- who made a point to never use fatigue as an excuse -- would take his kids to the batting cage around 9 p.m. so they could get some swings in before going to sleep and heading to school the next morning.

"I always feel better, feel more confident from the work I've been doing," Palacios said. "So there's no reason for me to stop doing extra work if I feel more confidence when the game comes."

That confidence paid immediate dividends as the 21-year-old homered in his first professional at-bat with the Rookie-level AZL Indians and went 7-for-16 (.438) in five games before he was promoted to Class A Short Season Mahoning Valley, where he singled in his first at-bat.

"He's obviously a talented baseball player," Barnsby said. "He's an athlete that can stay in the middle of the field. Offensively, he really controls the strike zone. He's got a quick bat and he's got a little bit of pop in there as well. What stood out is he can play on both sides of the ball."

Defensively, Palacios spent the bulk of his career at shortstop, but with a fringy arm, some have questioned his ability to stick there. The Indians have put him at second base to start his career, but the organization prides itself on defensive versatility and Palacios will likely get opportunities to play multiple positions as he moves through the ranks.

Regardless of position, Palacios said his only focus is that he's on the field and wherever he's playing on the diamond, there will be little doubt that he's putting the work in.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.