RENO - Carlos Madrid thought his baseball career was over when he completed his four-year career at Nevada last May and then was bypassed in the annual draft.
"I was disappointed," he said. "It was a big letdown over the whole thing, A lot of guys get told things that don't happen. I was trying to finish up school and get ready for my real life."
Then along came the Reno Silver Sox, and Madrid's competitive juices started flowing again. The Silver Sox were supposed to hold a tryout locally, but for whatever reason, it was cancelled.
That didn't stop Madrid. This was his chance, and he wasn't going to let go without a fight. He played whatever card was at his disposal.
"Chris (Briones, former Nevada assistant and player and current Silver Sox account executive) was my way in," Madrid said. "Dwight (Dortch, Sox general manager) helped me a little bit. Les (Lancaster, Sox manager) gave me a shot. I talked my way into spring training."
The Sox signed him shortly before the 10-day spring training started, and it could turn out to be the best investment of the season. Madrid has assumed the starting second base spot, played errorless ball and is currently hitting .428 thanks to a season-opening six-game hitting streak.
"He has done an outstanding job," said Lancaster, who likes Madrid's athleticism and the fact that he can play second, short, third and even catch. "He's taken balls at second, third and short, and he's caught a bullpen for us.
"Very rarely do you see a local guy good enough to make a (local independent) team. He's really impressed us. He's earned everything he's got. The (starting) second base job is his to lose unless we were to get a guy with Double-A or Triple-A experience."
That's music to Madrid's ears.
"Reed High is the only place where I knew I would start every game," Madrid said before a recent game against the Fullerton Flyers. "Every year at Nevada, even my senior year, I didn't feel I was a set starter. I had David Ciarlo pushing me my senior year.
"I'd play 50 games a year. All the pressure coach (Gary) Powers put on me helped me here. It's safe to say I'm an over achiever. When people first see me, they like me or they don't."
After going through a 10-day spring training and a week of games, Madrid is impressed by the competition.
"People have a misconception of independent baseball, and I did, too," Madrid said. "The caliber is better than I thought it would be. Some of the guys have already played at a high level. Everyone here has knowledge of the game."
The biggest adjustment for Madrid has come at the plate. Madrid hit only .256 during his four-year stint at Nevada.
He is 9-for-21 through the first six games with four RBIs, all of which came in Wednesday night's 16-1 win over Fullerton. He is one of three Sox players, first baseman Doug Gredvig and catcher Marcus Jensen are the others, to have hit in every game
"I don't know how to explain it," Madrid said. "I'm seeing the ball real well right now. I'm in a zone right now."
Madrid credits his development to hitting coach Rafael Melchione, who played in Puerto Rico and spent several seasons in the minors.
"I learned more in one day with Rafael than I learned my entire four years at Nevada," Madrid said. "He's got me with my hands up higher. I've always been primarily a left field (pull) hitter. I'm hitting more to the opposite, and I'm doing it with authority.
"After one session with him, I went out and hit a homer and went 2-for-2 in an intrasquad game."
Melchione, who has learned from ex-Dodgers Reggie Smith and Jim Lefebvre, just smiled when informed of Madrid's praise. He sees why things can happen like this. He knows college coaching staffs aren't big enough to specialize like professional baseball.
"When he first came in, I didn't know if he could make the team," Melchione said. "His swing was so opposite of what a professional hitter should have. His swing is totally different then when he first came here.
"He had an aluminum bat swing; more of an inside-out swing. He kept opening up too soon."
Melchione said that two things have helped Madrid make such a quick adjustment were his bat speed and athletic ability, and hitting is a huge reason why Madrid has claimed a starting job. He is a better hitter than any of the other middle infielders.
"Rafael has done an unbelievable job with him from when he first came here with the swing he had," Lancaster said.
Indeed. Not bad for a guy that wasn't expected to survive the team's final cutdown.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281