'Mysteriously wonderful' journey for Rincones is just getting started

July 19th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- Gabriel Rincones Jr. carries a unique perspective on his wild journey to Monday’s life-changing moment with the Phillies.

It took him from Florida to Venezuela to Scotland to Venezuela again to Florida again. It took him away from his parents, but it brought him back to baseball.

“Everything has been mysteriously wonderful,” he said Monday evening.

The Phillies selected Rincones Jr. with the 93rd overall pick of the 2022 Draft. He is a 6-foot-4, 225-pound outfielder from Florida Atlantic University. Rincones Jr. hits for power and has an advanced approach at the plate. He runs better and plays better defense than scouting reports suggest, he said.

“There is no way I am a 30-grade runner,” Rincones Jr. said with a chuckle.

Rincones Jr. will get to prove these things soon enough with the Phillies. The 93rd pick is slotted for a $659,800 signing bonus.

“I realize it hasn’t been a routine route to this point,” he said. “But everything has been as smooth as can be, thanks to God.”

His father, Gabriel Rincones Sr., is a native Venezuelan who pitched one season for the Mariners’ Rookie-level team in 1997 and went 5-4 with a 3.82 ERA in 13 appearances (11 starts). His fastball sat 94-95 mph, which was gas back then. But an injury ended his career. Despite the pain, baseball never left Rincones Sr.'s blood. He and his family moved from Florida to Venezuela soon after his son was born.

“I learned baseball in the Latino environment,” Rincones Jr. said. “I picked up that Latino flair or whatever you want to call it.”

The family moved to Scotland when Rincones Jr. was 6 years old. Rincones Sr. is an offshore safety advisor in the oil industry.

Rincones Jr. lived there until he was 12.

“I thought it was going to be a vacation, but it turned into a very long vacation,” he said.

There was little baseball in Scotland then, although Rincones Jr. played in a loosely organized league with men who either wanted to learn baseball or were American. He killed time by throwing balls against the walls of his house. He watched YouTube videos of Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds and any other baseball highlights he could find.

But mostly Rincones Jr. was involved in soccer, boxing, swimming and judo.

“Anything other than baseball,” he said.

But his parents always asked him what he wanted to do, and he always said baseball. So they sent him to Venezuela to live with an aunt for a year. He played baseball again. It went well. He returned home to Scotland for the summer, then moved to Florida to live with another aunt and attend H.B. Plant High School in Tampa, Fla.

Wade Boggs is the most notable baseball Plant alumnus, but there are five active big leaguers who went there: Pete Alonso, Mychal Givens, Kyle Tucker, Preston Tucker and Jake Woodford. Rincones Jr. took BP with Alonso a couple years ago. The Mets slugger gave him a bat. Rincones Jr. has gotten to know Givens, the Tuckers and Woodford, too. He played with Connor Scott, who was selected by the Marlins with the 13th overall pick in 2018.

Rincones Jr. got to Plant and thought he would usurp the varsity third baseman as a freshman.

Instead, he got cut.

“I wasn’t mad at anybody,” he said. “I just knew that I needed to get better, stronger.”

Rincones Jr. got better, stronger. He played varsity as a junior and senior, then spent two years at St. Petersburg Junior College. He had a 36-game hitting streak in 2021. Rincones Jr. played for Britain in the European Championship in that year, too, which means he could play in the World Baseball Classic next spring if the team qualifies. He went to FAU this past year, hitting .346 with 19 homers, 69 RBIs and a 1.110 OPS.

Rincones Jr. has not seen his parents in three years. They still live in Scotland. He called them Monday with the good news that the Phillies drafted him. They did not immediately answer because they were playing in their softball league.

A friend told them that the Phillies picked their son in the third round.

“They called me back and they were over-the-moon happy,” Rincones Jr. said.

Everything in his life seemed to be geared toward that moment, didn’t it?

“I never really dreamed of the Draft,” Rincones Jr. said. “I think this is just me starting my career. It’s the dream of being successful in the big leagues.”