2010 graduate Mike Bolaski takes batting practice with coach Ryan Medrano (photo by Amanda Rodarte/HM).
Once known for its ability to produce high-caliber talent, El Paso, one of the nationâ€™s largest cities, slowly began to lose its ability on being able to produce professional players. Â When was the last athlete El Pasoans rooted for in a professional sport?
Now there is someone that all citizens, inside and outside the Hanks community, can embrace and call their own.
El Paso, per capita, perhaps doesnâ€™t produce the talent as other cities. Â But it has has now produced a prospect ready to turn in the sizzling heat for the cool weather in California.
Michael Bolaski, a 2010 alumni, grew up in the southwestern part of Texas. Because of his athletic physique, and extraordinary work ethic, Bolaski was scouted and eventually drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 23rd round, the 714th overall pick.
Many teams wanted Bolaski for his considerable pitching ability, his tenacity and â€œknow-howâ€ for the sport. Â Teams such as the Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and the Houston Astros let their interest at one point or another be known.
The Angels, due to a strong relationship between head coach Ryan Medrano and one of the head scouts for the team, wanted Bolaski to play third base.
Medrano, as someone Bolaski and his family trusted, was heavily involved in the young starâ€™s draft probability because of his relationship with Kevin Ham, a scout for the Angels and El Paso native who scouts in the area.
After the last regular season game in the 2010 campaign, Ham showed up to Eastwood for the game and came in to contact with Medrano. Â He wanted a closer view of Bolaskiâ€™s ability as a hitter. Â The three of them â€” Bolaski, Medrano and Ham â€” returned to Hanks so Bolaski could show Ham exactly what he was capable of.
â€œMike hit better in those twenty minutes than I have ever seen him hit in his life,â€ Medrano enthusiastically said.
Bolaski was told by the Angelsâ€™ organization that he could go as high as the 12th round. Â When he started dropping, it didnâ€™t mean the Angels werenâ€™t high on him. Â It just meant there was a change in strategy to the Angelsâ€™ draft that made his draft place fall.
â€œthe Angels were very respectful and treated Michael with all the enthusiasm that any highly-recruited player would have,â€ Medrano said.
Bolaski originally intended to sign with El Paso Community College to have more leverage in the draft and to continue to play with his fellow Knight teammates. He has since received the golden opportunity to play in the majors.
Bolaski is now playing rookie ball for the Arizona League (AZL) Angels in Tempe, Arizona. Â As part of his contract, the Angels offered to pay Bolaskiâ€™s tuition when he decides to enroll in his school of choice.
During his senior year, Bolaski lead the Knights to a 24-8 record overall record and a playoff series. Â During his senior season, Bolaski put up huge numbers, hitting .506 with a .573 on-base percentage, nine homeruns, 44 runs scored and 40 runs batted in. He led what can easily be described as one of the best Knight baseball teams in all of these categories, including an astonishing 1.024 slugging percentage that wasnâ€™t mentioned earlier.
In rookie ball, Bolaski took little time becoming accustomed with the rough play of minor league ball. Â He went 2-for-3 in his debut on June 21 against the AZL Athletics. The Angels would go on to lose that game 8-2. Â In his second outing, Bolaski impressed many with his cool play in his first start, going 1-for-4 with a double in the 6-2 victory against the AZL Cubs.
To the credit of all El Paso athletes around the city, up to this point Bolaski has not disappointed in the minor league season. Â After 43 games, Bolaski had 14 RBIs, 38 hits and 15 runs scored.
The only question that has been left unanswered is when Michael James Bolaski will be in the dugout of the Major League Angelsâ€™ organization awaiting his shot at a chance to show off for a city and school that are in need of a great success story.
Medrano and Bolaski developed a close bond in the time they had together at Hanks. Â He fondly recalled when the moment became real.
â€œIt all came together for me at graduation when he received an emotional standing ovation after his drafting was announced,â€ said Medrano.
For Bolaski, this is real now. Â This is no longer a dream that a little kid from Desert View Middle had. Â This is the reality that an improving young man has the chance at greatness in Â his field of dreams.
â€œAs soon as I signed, it was just an emotional sigh relief,â€ said Bolaski. Â â€œI finally got my foot in the door and I now have a chance. It feels great.â€
When Bolaski comes into town, he still comes by and visits Medrano.
â€œI met up with him a couple of weeks ago and we sat down and chatted, and he just seemed so grown-up,â€ said Medrano. Â â€œHe was a man now. Â I addressed his parents concerns by telling them he was ready for the Majors.
Medrano believes Bolaskiâ€™s humility and down-to-earth personality are the qualities that will one day lead him to The Show.
â€œOne day soon, I hope to see Mike in the Majors, because I know he can.â€
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