By Michael DiStefano
Canadian Baseball Network
One of the scariest things for a high school athlete is the uncertainty of being able to impress scouts and get a shot to play at the next level.
For every player that has reached the major leagues, there are thousands of former athletes whose dream of playing pro ended after high school. Some gifted athletes have their future decided early in their teenage years, like Bryce Harper. Then there are the late bloomers who take a little longer to develop and get noticed.
Indigo Diaz, a right-handed pitcher from North Vancouver, B.C., comes from the latter group.
“My last year of high school is when things started to click [for me],” Diaz said. “I started to grow and college ball started being an option for me, and the junior college route seemed like a really good way to go.”
Diaz is currently in the middle of his sophomore season at NJCAA powerhouse Iowa Western.
After spending a majority of his first season in the bullpen, Diaz was thrust into the starting rotation in 2018. He’s run away with the opportunity and is tantalizing opposing batters en route to a perfect 8-0 record in his eight starts.
“This year I’ve had the opportunity to start basically the entire year,” Diaz said. “I feel like it gives me a lot of responsibility and I feel more bonded with the day-to-day stuff here, it has made a huge difference on and off the field.”
Diaz’ numbers tell the whole story. He’s improved upon last year’s 5.93 earned-run average to a jaw-dropping 1.83 this season. He is currently on a 14 2/3 scoreless-innings streak blending over three starts and a two-inning relief appearance.
The right-hander credits offseason weight-loss to his success this season.
“I only lost about 10-to-15 pounds but it went a long way with how I feel on the mound,” he said. “I felt like if I could lose weight I could be a lot more athletic on the mound.”
The Iowa Western hurler also added a changeup to his repertoire, but what he believes to be the most important change was learning to attack batters.
“The biggest thing for this year compared to last year is just the [change in] mentality,” Diaz said. “[I learned] how to go after hitters instead of working around them, so [now I] just go right at guys.”
That has certainly helped Diaz become a lethal weapon from the pitcher’s mound. He’s averaging 13.6 strikeouts-per-nine-innings this season for a grand total of 67 punch-outs over 44 1/3 innings.
Composure is also important for Diaz and he watches major league players to draw influence on how to react on the mound.
“It’s fun to watch and really see [how] they react when something doesn’t go their way, and then the way they just stay even-keeled when they do well.”
A lot has gone right for Diaz and his team over the season and he’s done a good job of not letting the success get to his head. Not only is the North Vancouver pitcher in the middle of an impressive scoreless streak, the Reivers are riding a 25-game winning streak into the month of May as well.
The big right-hander is draft eligible this year and has drawn some interest from teams. Diaz mentioned he has filled out questionnaires for numerous teams around the league, but isn’t focused on the future and is keeping his mind on the present.
Despite being draft eligible, he’s already committed to going to Michigan State next year and intends to honour that commitment.
“[Michigan] is still the plan next year,” he said. “I took a visit [there] and I loved it. It felt like home while I was there so it was a pretty easy decision and I feel like I can compete, pitch, and win, [which] ended up making the decision simple for me and I’m really looking forward to that.”
The 19-year-old pitcher has come a long way in his baseball career over the past couple years. He went from being a 12th grader who was unsure if he had the juice to make it at the post-secondary level, to a junior college standout who will soon make his way to Division I to study economics and pitch for the Spartans.
Diaz doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself. He knows there is still a lot of baseball to be played in 2018.
“Truthfully, I’m just focused on being here right now. We’ve won -straight games and we’re really rolling,” Diaz said. “I’m just trying to keep my head on being here right now and whatever happens in the [future], happens.”
Diaz looks the part, plays the part, and now he even sounds like a future major leaguer.