Gnats shortstop shines despite youth

By DaShawn Brown - email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - To area fans, he's Wilmer Flores, a professional baseball player with the Mets Class-A affiliate team, the Savannah Sand Gnats.

What many don't know, is at 18 years old, he's still just a teenager.

"He behaves himself on the field a lot older," said Gnats Manager Pedro Lopez. "He plays really mature, but he's still a kid."

Born in Venezuela, Flores started his dream of playing professional baseball at four years old.  When he was 15, he came to the United States where he attended Mets Academy in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  There, he caught the eye of NY Mets general manager Omar Minaya.  And as he put it, "well, they liked me."

Now in his second year with Savannah, Flores has 80 RBI with 10 homeruns.  He's one of the youngest players on the team, but that hasn't stopped him from stepping up as its leader.

"Actually, when he talks people listen," Lopez said.  "When you have an 18-year-old that's able to do that, that's pretty special."

"I'm very serious about my work," added Flores.  "When you see me here, it's like I'm 22 years old. I'm very serious about my job, but off the field, I'm just another guy.

Things haven't always been easy for the young Flores.  He's had to cope with living in a foreign country, learning a new language, all while adapting to a new way of life.

"There became a point where I didn't see him having fun anymore, and sure enough, his birthday was just around the corner," Lopez said.  "His grandmother called all upset because that was the first time he was going to spend his birthday away from home.   And it was hard for him."

"That's the hardest thing, being away from your family, but I talk to them everyday.  I miss them, they miss me."

But just as Flores has conquered a new culture, he says he is just as determined to conquer his dream.

"I want to get to the big leagues.  Not only get to the big leagues, but be an All-Star player."

In Tuesday night's South Atlantic League All-Star game, Flores had a 2-run double as the North and South teams played to a 2-2 tie in 10 innings.

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