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Matt Dominguez...close to signing?

Eddie Altamonte

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Posted on Thu, Jul. 05, 2007

Marlins' top pick draws raves


Matt Dominguez might be the Marlins' third baseman of the future, the heir to perennial All-Star Miguel Cabrera.

Dominguez, who was the 12th overall pick in last month's amateur draft, would love to take the fast track to the major leagues, like Cabrera did, and emerge as a middle-of-the-lineup hitter who pitchers fear.


Dominguez, 17, graduated from Chatsworth High less than two weeks ago, the same school where Marlins general manger Admin Beinfest was a two-time all-city shortstop in the early 1980s.


Marlins scout Tim McDonnell and Dominguez's high school coach, Tom Meusborn, said Dominguez is a gem. He can hit for power, but the thing that astounded them the most is his fielding ability.


He's such a slick fielder, with a strong arm and terrific range, that McDonnell said, ``He can go play third base in the big leagues tomorrow.''


Dominguez's path to the majors hasn't started officially because contract negotiations with the Marlins are ongoing.


Dominguez's uncle and advisor, Gus Dominguez of Southern California-based firm Total Sports International, said earlier this week: ``I'm sure it will get done. I'm just not sure how soon.''


Under a new rule implemented by Major League Baseball this year, teams must meet an Aug. 15 deadline with draft picks or lose rights to the player. If Dominguez and the Marlins don't reach a deal by then, Dominguez will play for Cal State-Fullerton, and the Marlins would receive a comparable first-round pick next year.


''I can't see myself not signing,'' Dominguez said recently as he sat on a couch in his family's living room.




In the past, the Marlins have announced the signing of draft picks when the team is playing near that player's hometown, or at least invited the player to visit the clubhouse. They did it with first-round pick Josh Beckett in August 1999, holding an introductory news conference during their series in Houston; in June 2003, top draft pick Jeff Allison, a Massachusetts native, had not signed, but watched the Marlins take batting practice before they played the Boston Red Sox.


The Marlins, who are on a West Coast swing, start a three-game series Friday against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.


''I don't know if that means anything as far as getting this deal done or not, that's not our thinking,'' Gus Dominguez said. ``Just because the Marlins roll into town, if they so choose to make it happen, we're certainly willing to make it happen.''


In the weeks since the draft, Dominguez said he has felt antsy because he's hardly playing baseball, and his older brother, Jason, 21, has started his professional career. Jason, who finished his junior year at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., was drafted by Houston in the 31st round last month and has been pitching for the Astros' short-season minor-league affiliate in the New York-Penn League, the likely destination for Matt if he signs in time.


Matt played with Jason for one year in high school, as a freshman, and said he's 0 for 1 against his brother, with the at-bat coming during a Chatsworth practice.


''It would be fun, not only as my brother but as a first-rounder,'' Jason Dominguez said. ``My ultimate goal is to face him.''


Throughout the Dominguez brothers' childhood, their lives mostly revolved around baseball. Their father, Fernando, -- who left Cuba with his family as a 12-year-old in 1967 and briefly stayed in Miami and with relatives in Belle Glade before moving to Los Angeles -- played baseball competitively as a child. Their mother, Cindy, who is of Swedish descent and grew up in Southern California, played softball.


Matt, Jason and eldest brother Danny, 23, played baseball in their backyard and inside their one-level home. They would hit a tennis ball, and if it went over the roof, it was a home run. Cindy often would pitch to her sons, who broke many a window at their house -- and their neighbors'.


At Chatsworth in 2004, Dominguez had 65 RBI, a state record for a freshman, and batted .461, and he was named the National Rookie of the Year by the National High School Baseball Coaches Association. That year, Chatsworth also was the mythical national high school champion. This past season, Dominguez hit .443 with 13 home runs and 42 RBI. During his career, he helped Chatsworth win two Los Angeles city titles.


Several baseball analysts have compared Dominguez, who is 6-2, 185 pounds, to Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, a young, all-around talent.


Dominguez used to obsess over hitting, but began to focus more on fielding, and now sometimes daydreams about seeing his defensive highlights on ESPN.


''I like watching [ESPN] Web Gems,'' Dominguez said. ``They impress me as much as a guy hitting the ball 450 feet. I don't think it gets much better than that.''


Dominguez's defense struck several major-league general managers who watched him play at Chatsworth. Meusborn said the comment he heard from several GMs was, ``Only four or five guys in the big leagues can make that play.''


Said Jason Dominguez: ``He has a great knack for making things look easy.''


As much as Matt Dominguez impressed talent evaluators with his abilities, he wowed them with his personality. Fernando Dominguez, a sports copy editor at the Los Angeles Times and Cindy, who does not work, raised him to be humble. Those closest to him also describe this blond-haired, blue-eyed teenager as quiet and even-keeled.




Jason Dominguez said his brother seemed excited after being drafted by the Marlins, but conceded that family members seemed to do most of the celebrating. They gathered with family and friends at the home of Gus Dominguez, who has a scheduled sentencing date of Monday in Key West and faces a federal prison term from charges related to smuggling Cuban baseball players in the United States. It shouldn't affect Matt's negotiations with the Marlins.


Shortly after being drafted by the Marlins, Matt Dominguez and high school teammate Mike Moustakas -- who was selected second overall by the Kansas City Royals -- went to a local mall in search of hats for their respective teams. Dominguez initially had trouble finding a Marlins one that fit, but he finally found a retro teal cap that he keeps in his bedroom.


The present he covets, though, is sitting in a nearby car dealership. Dominguez recently test drove a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado with his parents. His plan is to buy a white four-door truck with oversized tires, a DVD player and digital navigation system. Dominguez said it would be the first big purchase with his signing bonus, but it is on hold until a contract is signed.


''I don't think it's hit me yet,'' Dominguez said of being drafted so high. ``I don't think it will until I'm actually playing somewhere.''

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