As the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of high school spring sports, local seniors were faced with an abrupt ending to their high school careers. A group of these students were also athletes at the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex, Presented by Toyota. This Rangers Academy Senior Spotlight series seeks to highlight those athletes who have worked on their craft at the Academy as they move into the next chapter in their lives.
Julian Olivo was participating in Mercy Street sports programming before the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex ever occupied the spot at the corner of Bickers Street and Hampton Road in West Dallas.
Since the Academy opened in 2017, Olivo has continued to be a regular on those fields.
Academy director Juan Leonel Garciga has watched the pitcher's efforts pay off.
"Julian's maturity and growth has been one of my favorite developments since the Academy opened. People at Mercy Street and the Rangers truly believed in him and invested in him as a person, and he held up his end of the bargain to become a tremendous young man," Garciga said.
Along the way, Olivo earned spots on the 2018 and '19 RBI All-Star teams representing the Academy in the RBI Southwest Regionals, played for the Academy in the '19 Commissioner's Cup tournament as part of All-Star Weekend festivities in Cleveland and traveled to Arizona to participate in the Dream Series, an amateur development camp through MLB and USA Baseball.
The trips were a chance for the pitcher to meet new people and make new friends. Last summer's experience in Cleveland left the biggest impression.
"Going out there to celebrate the MLB All-Star week is unforgettable and being able to attend the Home Run Derby sitting in left field is going to be a lifetime memory for me," Olivo recalled.
Olivo's time at the Academy didn't end with the RBI League, camps and clinics.
The 2020 Pinkston High School graduate called the facility home for his high school games from his sophomore year through his COVID-19 shortened senior campaign. Now he's back on the fields for a final time, participating in this summer's RBI Leagues.
"We are excited to give Julian and so many of our seniors a chance to compete in 2020 and will be hosting multiple RBI Senior Nights this summer to give them their moments," Garciga said.
Even though much of his senior high school season was taken away by the pandemic, Olivo is still working on his craft every day as he's now just months away from achieving a major goal -- playing in college.
"It was something I put all my time and effort into so that I could put myself in a position to play at the next level," Olivo said.
Olivo might be leveling up, but he won't be far away.
The righty's new home field will be less than 10 miles from the Academy, at Mountain View College in Dallas.
"Staying close to home and going in with a secure spot on the pitching rotation was the best fit for me," Olivo said of his college choice. "I had a good connection with head coach Malcolm [Walker]. He's a great guy."
Whether it's been representing the Academy or playing for Pinkston or preparing for Mountain View, Olivo has learned a lot from the game he loves.
"Baseball is a game of failure. It's a little like life, you have good and bad days, but you have to keep working hard through it all. It's also shown me how to handle adversity," Olivo said.
As he prepares to study physical education with a goal of becoming a coach one day, Olivo is looking forward to sharing what he's learned.
"Just wanting to help develop others and give back what was taught to me," Olivo said of his desire to coach. "To put myself in a position where I can help other kids like myself. To hopefully one day teach them what a beautiful game baseball is."