Raven Sauceda is used to going unnoticed during pre-game introductions.
The slender 5-foot-2 junior doesn’t make much of a first impression. That is until he gets into the batter’s box to lead off a game or takes his place behind the plate.
The diminutive Sauceda is a large part of a Grey Wolves baseball team that looks to get back into the postseason in 2014 after last season’s breakout.
“Being little doesn’t mean anything,” Sauceda said. “Like (Dustin) Pedroia, he’s little in the major leagues, but he’s really, really good for the Boston Red Sox.”
Sauceda has compiled a .476 batting average, six RBIs, eight extra-base hits, a home run and has a .776 slugging percentage. Sauceda has struck out only three times in 17 regular season games.
His measurable play is the antithesis of his measurable height.
“He’s a little vertically challenged, but he’s a five-tool player,” Shoemaker head coach Harry Zambrana said. “He can run, he can hit for power, hit for average, he’s got a good arm, he fields well, he does it all. He plays bigger than what he is.”
Sauceda burst onto the prep baseball scene in 2012 by hitting .405 in District 12-5A play and earning the district’s freshman of the year award.
His performance as a Grey Wolf freshman pup made it apparent that he would be a part of the Shoemaker baseball core for the next few years. Sauceda went on to be a part of Shoemaker’s first playoff team in 2013.
But baseball has always been a part of his life, even before it was supposed to.
At the age of 6, Sauceda skipped tee ball and went straight into a fast-pitch baseball. And that’s when he started going up against players that were a little older and bigger than he was.
“I didn’t like tee ball so I went straight to fast pitch,” Sauceda said. “I just liked when the guys would throw it. I didn’t like hitting off the tee or people putting it into the machine and having it thrown to me. I just liked when people threw.”
As a youth, Sauceda dreamt about playing varsity baseball as a freshman until that dream came true in 2012. He now aims at playing college baseball, and that opportunity may come around as soon as 2016.
Sauceda verbally committed to play for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last summer when his traveling team was playing a tournament in Corpus Christi. The Islanders compete in the Southland Conference and are currently 11-15 and 3-3 in conference play.
But having a future at the next level did nothing to quench Sauceda’s thirst to succeed for the Grey Wolves.
Despite the fact that he’s going to be a middle infielder in college, he has been playing catcher for the Grey Wolves since District 8-5A play began to help fill the void left by all-district performer Albert Castro, who graduated last season.
“I was thinking about my team,” Sauceda said. “I told my dad and Coach Zambrana that I just have to take one for the team, catch and I had to give up shortstop for now.”
Shoemaker went 1-3 at the Austin Baseball Tournament, with its only win coming after Austin Eastside Memorial forfeited a Friday afternoon game.
Sauceda volunteered to go behind the plate at a time when the Grey Wolves had some struggles before district play.
“He text-messaged me and said ‘Coach, I’ll catch for us,’” Zambrana said. “I said that’s exactly what I was going to ask on Monday. He understands what it takes for us to be successful and where we need help.”
Sauceda has been a large concern for opponents when he’s on the base path, stealing 11 bases and scoring 17 runs.
“Every time I get on, I’m stealing,” Sauceda said. “No matter if the catcher has a gun, I’m going to try and steal. They already know that I’m going to steal because they know I’m really fast so I’m going to try and steal the base.”
Zambrana remembers first seeing Sauceda play in fall ball when he was a freshman in 2011.
Though his natural talents stuck out, Zambrana was impressed with Sauceda’s drive and work ethic. Zambrana has even taken up the moniker of “field rat” to describe Sauceda’s need to improve and spend extra time working on his game.
“He’s a special one and I’ve been fortunate enough to have him all the years that I’ve been a head coach,” Zambrana said. “It’s been a blessing.
“When I retire, when I hang it up, he’s going to be one of those kids that I’m lucky enough to talk about.”
Contact Albert Alvarado at email@example.com