clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

'It is surreal': Jose Rojas drawing near to his lifelong dream while playing for the Salt Lake Bees

SALT LAKE CITY — For as long as he can remember, Jose Rojas has wanted to be a major league baseball player.

More than that, though, he’s always wanted to play for his hometown Los Angeles Angels.

Born in Anaheim, California, a graduate of Anaheim High and an alum of Vanguard University of Southern California in nearby Costa Mesa, Rojas grew up cheering for the Angels.

Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad, Tim Salmon and Troy Glaus qualified as his idols — a few of them, at least — and were players whose careers he has tried to emulate.

“I’ve always wanted to do what they did and have tried to do what they did on the field myself,” Rojas said.”

He watched, gleefully, as that group, along with Adam Kennedy, David Eckstein and others, won the World Series in 2002.

Spend time with Rojas and one thing becomes clear: He is a diehard Angels fan.

That is what has made this season, which Rojas has spent entirely with the Salt Lake Bees — the Triple-A affiliate of the Angels — almost a dream come true in and of itself.

“It is a dream come true, absolutely,” Rojas said. “Since I was little I’ve always wanted to play professional baseball and, obviously, more than anything, for the Angels. To get the opportunity with them, with this organization, even to this day it doesn’t seem real. It is surreal, honestly.”

This season has been the culmination of years of toil spent within the Angels’ ranks for Rojas, starting in 2016 when he was drafted by the team in the 36th round of the MLB draft.

From there he has steadily progressed through the minor league ranks, first with the Orem Owlz, followed by stints with the Inland Empire 66ers (Single-A) and the Mobile BayBears (Double-A) in successive seasons.

Last year, after spending nearly the entire campaign with the BayBears, Rojas earned a spot with the Bees late in the season, appearing in 19 games.

His move to Triple-A wasn’t exactly a resounding success — his batting average was .217 — and so his focus this season has been all about consistency.

“Like anything in life, when you move up, like in school with a new grade level, or with baseball, from Double-A to Triple-A, the biggest thing is consistency, I think,” Rojas said. “The amount of consistency needed increases at every level, and that has been the biggest adjustment for me.”

To achieve consistency, Rojas has taken a one-game-at-a-time approach, a cliché in sports to be sure, but Rojas’ aim nonetheless.

“You adapt and adjust and you have to do it on a daily basis,” Rojas said. “I’ve tried to focus on the game plan in each and every game, really trying to play the way I practice. Just approach the game the same way I approach practice, just being consistent with the game plan and making minor adjustments day to day.”

The daily approach has paid of, particularly at the plate.

This season, Rojas is batting just under .300, the sixth-best mark on the team, and the second-best for Bees players who’ve appeared in at least 60 games.

He leads the team in RBIs, doubles and triples, and is among a quartet of Bees battling for second place on the team in home runs.

His skill at the plate has become noticeable, and is the basis of any argument for a major league call-up.

“He can really hit,” Bees manager Lou Marson said. “He is hitting the ball really well. He’s opened a lot of eyes in the organization with that. Player development, we knew he could hit, but he has opened the front office's eyes, which is great.”

Where Rojas is lacking, currently, is on defense.

Traditionally a third baseman, Rojas has bounced around the infield this season, as is the Salt Lake Bees’ way.

“We’ve moved him around this year, all over the field, to different positions,” Marson said. “He is improving and he makes the play when it is hit right at him. He needs to improve his range a little bit, though, to play at the next level every day in the big leagues. You need to be at least solid defensively, and he has realized how important that is and he continues to improve.”

For Rojas’ part, any and all improvement — made game by game at that — is all about making his dreams come true.

“I’m trying to knock on that door and put on that Angels uniform one day.”