By: Jose Alfonso Taboada
Canadian Baseball Network
DUNEDIN, Fla – Right-handed pitcher Jose Espada has never felt happier after working hard his entire life to get to where he is today with the Toronto Blue Jays.
At a young age, Espada knew he wanted to become a major leaguer after his dad got him into the game.
He was taken in the fifth round of the 2015 Major League draft (152nd overall) from Jose Collazo Colon High School.
“I was emotional and I was overjoyed when it happened. At the age of four, I knew I wanted to sign with a team and I kept working towards that,” he said, in Spanish. “Everybody around me kept telling me, ‘You can make it to the [majors], you can make it there,’ and I kept working.
"And when I was picked in the draft, I was with my family, all my friends; everything was unforgettable,” Espada said, standing outside of the Bobby Mattick Training Center.
Espada began playing in a junior league in Puerto Rico as a third baseman. At 15 he made the switch to pitching.
“Well when I was in the junior league [in Puerto Rico] or as they say, when I was really young, I played third base and shortstop. But when I was 15, I decided to completely focus on pitching. I really liked it and I didn’t like batting. I kept on going and going until God wanted me to sign and thanks to God I’m here.“
After being drafted, Espada joined the Gulf Coast Blue Jays, then was sent to the Gigantes de Carolina of the Puerto Rican Baseball League. He was relieved spending a short season with Carolina and, along with the experience, used his idols as motivation.
“I got to give thanks to the Gigantes; they gave me the opportunity in my first year to throw some innings while I was a rookie,” he said. As I look up to players like Carlos Correa and Fransico Lindor, you want to keep working and you want to dominate them. You want to be there in the big leagues.”
Espada will begin the 2017 season with the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Rookie Appalachian League.