By César Augusto Márquez
Baseball runs in Luis Angel Acuña’s DNA. His father was once a New York Mets prospect, and his brother Ronald Jr. of the Braves is one of the emerging figures in Major League Baseball this year.
Now the youngest in the Venezuelan family will start to take his first steps as a professional after receiving a $400,000 signing bonus as an international free agent with the Texas Rangers on July 2.
“The excitement is big because I always wanted to be a ballplayer like my dad and my brother,” Luis Angel told La Vida Baseball after signing with the Rangers.
His Own Path
Unlike his brother, who is an outfielder like their father had been, Luis Angel is an infielder. Nonetheless, he looks up to big brother.
“My idol has always been my brother, for many different reasons,” Luis Angel said. “I excelled more as a third baseman and a shortstop, but you can be sure that I’ll play as hard as he does.”
Scouting reports on Luis indicated that organizations didn’t want to make the same mistakes they made with his brother in 2015, when a number of teams passed on Ronald, Jr., who signed with the Braves for a modest $100,000.
“Luis is a good hitter, has talent, especially to play in the infield,” said a veteran National League West scout. “He has a good arm. I think that based on his appearance that he’ll end up being a third baseman more than any other position. He’s not as tall as his brother, but it’s possible that the Rangers had confidence in his baseball genes to sign him for close to half a million.”
A Baseball Town
Baseball runs not just in the Acuña family but extends throughout their hometown of La Sabana. The coastal town produced not only the Acuñas but also the Escobars – Kelvim, Alcides, José, Edwin. Luis’ signing had the town in a festive mood. Ronald Sr. celebrated the sight of his second son in a professional baseball uniform.
“I’m very happy because I now have two professional ballplayers,” Ronald Sr. said. “I hope that soon with God’s blessing both will be big leaguers.”
Far from that hometown celebration in La Sabana, well over 2,000 miles, Ronald Jr. was with the Braves for an interleague series against the New York Yankees shortly after his brother signed with the Rangers.
His joy was obvious as well.
Acuña Family Pride
“Congratulations to my brother,” Ronald wrote in Spanish on a post to his Instagram page. “Proud of you. Keep working hard. Now there’s a road to travel with God’s favor, a good attitude, playing hard and never arriving late to the ballpark. We’ll see each other soon in the majors.”
That message seemed similar to the advice his father gave him after he signed and began his road to the majors.
When asked if he intended to deliver the same message his father gave Luis, Ronald Jr. smiled.
“Sure, play hard and never take anything for granted, work hard and show the best disposition, that’s key and it’s my best advice for Luis Angel,” Ronald Jr. told La Vida Baseball. “I feel very proud of him for signing a contract that he earned on his own merits.
“I’m always going to be available to give him advice about this journey that starts now. It’s not easy. But as I’ve demonstrated, it can be achieved.”
Scouts are not the only ones hoping the Acuña genes prove powerful once again. Ronald Jr. has shown power in his time with the Braves. Luis believes that tool is also one of his strengths.
“I think that in the future they’ll see how I will hit lots of home runs,” Luis said. “I think I’m a power hitter now. That’s something I want to take advantage of in my game.
For now, Luis will be hitting the road, leaving his native Venezuela for the Dominican Republic to embark on his professional career.
“I’ll travel to the Dominican Republic to begin preparing at the Rangers’ academy. The expectations are the same as always; never relax.”
As with every start, the dreams can be big, but are there even bigger aspirations?
“I want to play with my brother or against him in the majors,” he said.
Featured Image: Scott Cunningham / Getty Images Sport