Willie Abreu Really Really Likes Baseball
By Rylan Kobre
Willie Abreu has a ‘big-league feel’ when he speaks.
Humble, but with a quiet confidence that makes Abreu sound much older then the mere 21-years-old he is.
Maybe it was making the difficult decision to head to the University of Miami, rather then leave high school and play for the Cincinnati Reds in 2013.
Or maybe it was the stroke and emergency brain surgery he had to watch his mother go through in the midst of his sophomore season—while his Miami Hurricanes made a run in the College World Series.
”He may be the nicest person I have ever met and that’s the impression everyone get’s when they meet him.” – Jim Morris, Head Coach at the University of Miami
Whatever it is, those trials and tribulations have helped him become a better baseball player, but more importantly, to himself, a better man.
“Baseball is something small I think compared to what life is and how beautiful this game really is,” Abreu said pregame before his Single-A short season Boise Hawks took on the Spokane Indians. “There is a lot of people that don’t have this opportunity so I just enjoy every minute of it.”
The University of Miami
Abreu was a Senior in high school when he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 14th-Round. The University of Miami was waiting in the fall, and the powerful outfielder had a decision to make.
Head to the pros or put on the jersey he always dreamed of wearing at “The U.”
“Getting an opportunity to play pro baseball is a blessing in its own, so I was lucky enough to have that option but I was really determined to go to the University of Miami and I’ve always been a huge fan, and wanted to do a lot of things there,” Abreu said.
He grew up watching and rooting for the green and orange, growing up in nearby Hialeah, Florida, about 30 minutes away from the University.
A place he wanted to see himself grow.
“Going to Miami, it’s tradition. It’s something that is bigger then just college and it’s something that’s in our life and our lifestyle. Going to the University of Miami and putting on that jersey is what you dream of as a kid.”
Head coach at the University of Miami, Jim Morris, is used to commits leaving for MLB, but he felt Abreu could benefit from his time in college.
“He improved as a hitter, and of course the biggest thing he has to do as a player in order to play is hit. He’s a very physical guy, he’s very strong and plays hard,” Morris said. “But in order to play at the next level he has to hit.”
Abreu relished his time there and put up numbers that helped him in the 2016 draft.
A .283 career average, 131 RBI’s and 19 HR’s in his three seasons along with being named to the All-ACC Third Team each year.
When asked of the biggest thing he learned from playing at “The U” it was his offensive mindset that came to mind.
“Growing as a hitter with discipline and being able to know your abilities and what you can and can’t do. And learning to become the hitter you essentially want to be,” Abreu said. “It’s not easy to learn that as a younger kid and the more you mature the easier it is to listen to people give you directions. Especially our coaching staff at the University of Miami it was great, I really thank them for a lot of my success.”
He also helped the Canes get to the College World Series in both his sophomore and junior seasons, despite not being able to bring home the trophy either years.
Those losses still linger.
He says he still has a “salty taste in his mouth” and it will make him head back in the offseason to always remind those guys “where they need to be.”
Despite not winning a ring, Abreu left a lasting impression on his former head coach just by the way he handled himself day-to-day.
“I guarantee nobody will play harder or work harder then he does,” Morris said.
14th Round to the 6th round
The three year difference from the 2013 to the 2016 draft helped him drop an average of 2.67 rounds per year.
The outfielder found himself with the Rockies organization, a place he was very comfortable coming to, in part because of the many players he has known in the Rockies organization, but also because the Rockies were the first club to call him out of high school.
“I’ve known a lot of the guys in the organization for a long time and I’ve also had friends in the organization, and I’ve heard nothing but great things. I am super excited to be here and getting my feet wet obviously.”
Another advantage Abreu has had was coming from the same hometown as Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. The two have gotten to know each other and seeing the sluggers success at an early age gives Abreu the confidence that this process in the minor leagues could be shorter then most.
“I think what makes it more realistic is seeing the hard work that they put in and me being a hard worker myself, I think that’s what helps me know that there is always a possibility just because of work ethic and the way you determine yourself to become a better baseball player everyday, I think that is going to help.”
Morris can’t put his finger around who Willie is comparable to in today’s game. But he did believe Abreus physicality at the plate makes him a perfect fit in the Rockies system.
“He’s a big physical guy that’s got a chance to hit a lot of home runs. He works hard and he plays hard and hitting in Colorado, in that ballpark, its got to be a great park for as strong as he is.”
A love for baseball
Abreu has a contagious passion for baseball and it may stem from his favorite player growing up.
“On and off the field I like to say Derek Jeter. He’s been my idol since I was a little kid and my dad growing up as a Yankee fan and myself, at that stage in my life I love to see the way he goes about his business and I think that’s what has helped me try to go about my business the same way.”
But it was the comments from his college coach in the first 30 seconds in our over the phone interview that spoke most to Abreu’s character.
“Willie is a unique young man. He may be the nicest person I have ever met and that’s the impression everyone get’s when they meet him. He plays the game with his heart and he wears his emotion on his sleeves.”
More from Colorado Rockies Prospects
- Colorado Rockies: Has Sean Bouchard earned a second look in 2023?
- Colorado Rockies: Ezequiel Tovar to make his debut today
- Colorado Rockies: Potential players for September call-ups
- Colorado Rockies call up no. 14 prospect Michael Toglia
- MLB Pipeline: The Colorado Rockies’ farm system has strengthened … a lot
Since getting to Boise, Willie Abreu has been a key piece to the lineup where he is hitting .274 and playing a strong right field, which he says, he compares some of his game to Carlos Gonzalez.
He also says he likes to think his game is most similar to bits and pieces of a variety of players in the league, but the style of how he approaches it, is very much his own.
“Baseball is not an easy game but the one thing I will bring everyday is a lot of passion and I like to have a lot of fun. That’s what I like to bring to the ballpark everyday is just a big smile and having a great time and treating everybody with respect, because this goes a long way than just baseball.”
When asked who was the better player, Bobby Abreu, Jose Abreu or himself? Coincidentally, all of which were right fielders, the decision couldn’t be made just yet.
Next: Colorado Rockies: Q&A with Head Trainer Keith Dugger
“Time will tell, I have a lot of respect for those guys.”