Unexpected Opportunity Puts Torres Back on the Diamond

Brett Friedlander

Jose Torres had already come to grips with the reality that for the first time since he started playing t-ball, he’d have to go an entire spring and summer without playing baseball.

Then, literally out of the blue, he got a phone call with an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Actually, he could easily have refused it because of the risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

But Torres is a ballplayer.

So when coach Brett Wellman offered him an opportunity to play for the Amarillo Sod Squad of the Texas Collegiate League, the NC State shortstop decided it was a risk he was willing to take.

“I was all set to stay home and workout, and was just looking forward to getting back to State and playing fall ball,” Torres said. “Then I got the call and I was like, ‘I’m ready to go.”

Torres started all 17 games for the Wolfpack before his rookie season was cut short in March.

The premature ending was especially disappointing because after getting off to a slow start, he was just beginning to hit his stride at the plate when play was halted.

“Of course it was a little frustrating because I wanted to see how it would play out, the whole season,” he said. “But at the end of the day, Coach Elliott (Avent) told us to keep our head up. He was good at communicating with us.

Torres’ disappointment was compounded when the Cape Cod Summer League also canceled its season. He had been planning to play for the Harwich Mariners in the prestigious wood bat league.

“We all understood it was for the better. There’s something serious going on with the virus. We understood that. It was the best decision, even if we weren’t happy with it.”

Although he jumped at the opportunity when Wellman called with the offer to play in Amarillo, Torres admits to having some reservations before leaving for Texas because of the health risks involved.

“I just talked to the coach before I got out here and he told me all the protocols they were going to follow and he was pretty confident we were going to play,” Torres said. “I just took his word and came out there.”

The precautions put in place for the TCL season, which runs through early August, are similar to those being used by Major League Baseball -- including a prohibition on handshakes and spitting while maintaining social distancing when possible.

Even then, Torres wasn’t completely convinced he’d ever get an at bat for the Sod Squad.

“When I got here, we all got tested. If somebody came back positive, I was pretty sure the season, at least our season, would get banged.” he said. “After we got tested, I felt like we were going to play.”

After a week of practice, the TCL season officially began on Wednesday. And Torres has picked up right where he left off at State.

He’s well on the way toward accomplishing his summer goal “to build confidence at the plate.”

Batting in the leadoff spot, he’s picked up four hits and two RBI in 12 official at bats over his first three games.

“It came back immediately,” the Baltimore native said of his hitting stroke. “When I was back home, I was still seeing live pitching every day, catching the ball. I stayed in a routine. So when I came here, I was only off for like two days. It’s been just like I was back at school.”

Torres is one of only three current Wolfpack team members to be playing this summer. Fellow freshman DeAngelo Giles is playing in the Coastal Plain League for his hometown High Point-Thomasville HiToms while junior first baseman Austin Murr is in Wisconsin on the LaCrosse Loggers of the Northwoods League.

Torres said he tried to recruit several others to come with him to Texas. But he didn’t find any takers.

But he’s okay with going it alone.

The part of Texas I’m at is so different, but I’m playing baseball,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”

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