‘Everybody’s Feeling It’ – The Mercury News


Koby Perez acknowledges that Luis Ortiz had a long way to go, but as a big lefty with a low ’90s fastball and impressive break ball, Ortiz had the profile of a pitcher with a bright future.

“This is the type of guy who usually finds his way into the big leagues at some point,” said Perez, the Orioles’ senior director of international scouting.

Whether Ortiz could have reached that potential remains to be seen. He died on Saturday, about a year after being diagnosed with leukemia. He was 20 years old.

“I can’t believe the way he took it,” Perez said. “Whenever he was around me, he acted very mature about it. He took it as well as anyone ever would take something like this.

“He was a fighter. He said he was going to fight and he fought until his last breath.

Ortiz was 16 years old when he signed with his native Dominican Republic’s Orioles in July 2019, receiving a $400,000 bonus that was one of the biggest in Baltimore’s first true dive into the Latin American market. Perez first saw him a year earlier, working as Cleveland’s Latin American scouting director. He had heard rumors that the Washington Nationals were interested in giving Ortiz a significant bonus, and scouts from various teams filled each of Ortiz’s departures.

But he chose Baltimore, the leading pitcher in a 27-man class that represented the franchise’s biggest investment in that area.

“Once he saw, ‘Wow, this team that doesn’t really sign anyone here wants to sign me,’ I think that really helped push him towards us,” Perez said.

Ortiz played in seven games with the organization, all in the Florida Complex League as of 2021. He was assigned to Low-A Delmarva the following year, but spent the year in Florida, on the injured list as he battled cancer.

Over the past year, Perez has joined prayer groups with the Ortiz family. Perez and Executive Vice President and General Manager Mike Elias were in the hospital alongside Ortiz’s family the day he died; Perez said Elias told them the team will take care of the funeral and other expenses.

While Ortiz’s professional experience was limited, Ortiz said it made him an inspiration to the children of Santo Domingo.

“Everyone is looking forward to seeing this hometown hero succeed and doing well, and unfortunately this illness has not allowed him that opportunity,” Perez said. “There are some kids in his neighborhood who really look up to him and are trying to follow in his footsteps.”

Ortiz’s younger brother, Ezequiel, was among them. Perez described Ortiz as “a super competitive kid, a family guy” who spoke frequently of his brothers, including Ezequiel.

“That’s his hero,” Perez said, “and he’s taking it very, very seriously.”

Teammates share the sentiment. Perez said Ortiz was particularly close with minor league outfielder Kevin Guerrero, acquired as part of the trade that sent relievers Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser to the Miami Marlins, as the two attended the same baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. Moises Chace, a right-handed Venezuelan who was also part of Baltimore’s 2019 international class, posted a photo on his Instagram story of an orange #24 jersey with “ORTIZ” on the back, placed in a pitching mound at the Orioles’ Twin Lakes minor league installation.

“Everyone is feeling it here,” Perez said. “It hurts with any kid, but imagine one of your teammates, and all those kids are young too.

“He looks like a man, but he is just a boy, just a child. Just a good boy. Everyone liked him.”


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