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Chasing the Big League dream: Bryan Rincon’s journey to professional baseball

Rincon has journeyed from Venezuela to Shaler Area to the Philadelphia Phillies organization in pursuit of his professional baseball dreams

If you have been following baseball recently, you may have noticed a familiar Shaler Area alumnus making a name for himself in the Minor League Baseball ranks. Infielder Bryan Rincon, a member of the Philadelphia Phillies organization, is now ranked as their 8th best prospect. What many people don’t know about is the journey he has taken to get to this point.

Rincon’s journey didn’t start in Shaler as he spent his childhood in Caracas, Venezuela. In Venezuela, Rincon would train at a baseball academy in hopes of reaching his professional baseball goals. Then in the winter of 2019, he would have to make a tough decision to leave his family to pursue his baseball dreams in America.

“After winning the 2019 WPIAL championship, I received a voicemail from somebody speaking in English, but with a heavy Spanish accent,” Shaler Baseball Head Coach Mr. Brian Junker said. “All I could really understand was there was a boy from Venezuela who wanted to know if he could play for Shaler if he came here. I chuckled and thought to myself that it would be cool, but wondered which of my friends were messing with me because we finally won the WPIAL championship. I never returned any of the calls and only found out Bryan was coming over when Mrs. [Kimberly] Piekarski (Rincon’s English-Spanish Language teacher) talked to me about it in the Fall of 2020.”

Although Rincon made it to America, he would have to adjust to the major cultural differences from Venezuela.

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“I felt a little bit nervous. A lot was different: new people, new culture, different language, and new school,” Rincon said.

Regardless of the new cultural change, Rincon embraced the new culture with a positive and respectful attitude.

“I cannot count the number of times people approached me to comment on Bryan’s respectfulness and graciousness. He always extended his hand for a handshake and made eye contact, demonstrating the respect he showed and the confidence he exuded,” Mrs. Piekarski said. “Bryan never let his skill level on the field get to his head. While he was focused on achieving his baseball goals, he also prioritized improving his language skills and integrating into the Shaler Area community.”

Even though Rincon had to adjust to the new culture, his baseball skills were certainly not questioned.

“It was early February when this skinny little boy walked into our winter workouts with his uncles. Bryan didn’t speak any English. After a few handshakes and smiles, we mixed him into the workout and it didn’t take too long before I knew we had something that could be very different,” Junker said.

By the time March rolled around, Rincon was getting ready to start his first high school season with the Shaler. After winning the 5A WPIAL championship the year before, the Titans had expectations of defending their title. Unfortunately, the season was over before it even started because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After learning and adapting to the new challenges in America, Rincon, like everyone else, would be forced to be isolated from his peers. This would be hard for him based on the fact that he used to train six days a week at his academy in Venezuela. Regardless of his circumstances, Rincon’s work ethic never waivered.

“I spent a lot of time training at home almost every single day with three baseballs, a tee, and a net,” Rincon said. “I also ran a lot of hills.”

Rincon also received help from Junker during the shutdown.

“I reached out to him to let him know I had a batting cage in the backyard and a lot of free time. It wasn’t long before we were hitting three hours a day, taking breaks mainly just to tape and bandage up his bloody hands,” Junker said.

After the shutdown, Rincon would go on to dominate in his junior and senior years at Shaler. Rincon burst onto the WPIAL baseball scene as he became one of the top shortstops in the area. The word spread quickly as Titans games would be filled with MLB scouts.

“It feels great when [scouts] are there to watch you. It motivates you,” Rincon said.

In his two years with Shaler, Rincon helped the Titans make back-to-back WPIAL playoffs appearances and one section title. Rincon was also a First-Team All-Section infielder in both his junior and senior years.

Rincon would go on to workout with many MLB teams, and on July 19th, 2022, Rincon was selected in the 14th round with the 422nd pick by the Philadelphia Phillies.

“It was exciting, but I knew that was just the beginning of a long journey. That was the first step so it was pretty exciting because I worked a lot of years just to sign as a professional,” Rincon said.

After getting drafted, Rincon packed his bags and moved to Clearwater, Florida to practice for a month. After learning the ropes down there, he finished off his season in the Florida Complex League where he played 12 games.

Once the season was over, Rincon started training for his first full season in professional ball. By the time Spring Training rolled around, Rincon was given an amazing opportunity to dress for a Major League Spring Training game.

“It was an amazing experience. I went two times and my first time I saw Miguel Cabrera and it was pretty awesome and I remember when all the fans were screaming his name,” Rincon said.

After Spring Training, Rincon was sent to play for the Phillies Low-A affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers. One of the biggest differences for him was the number of games to play compared to a high school season. In Single-A, teams are playing over 100 games a year while high schoolers play 20-30 games in a season.

“You have to learn how to take care of your body. You really have to have a routine for every single day from when you wake up until you go to sleep again. You have to be a professional, nobody is going to be telling you what to do or not do,” Rincon said.

Rincon had an amazing season in Clearwater. He had major power numbers with 8 home runs and 45 RBI in 81 games. Rincon also displayed his speed as he stole 23 bases. He also helped the Threshers to a regular season West Division title in the Florida State League.

His performance in Clearwater got him called up to the Jersey Shore BlueClaws, the Phillies High-A team. He would finish off his season there as he would play 18 games.

Rincon’s successful campaign in the 2023 season was acknowledged on the national level. After being the 14th round pick in the draft, Rincon was ranked as the Phillies 8th best prospect going into the 2024 season. His success would also earn him many more opportunities in Spring Training.

Rincon earned himself a chance to play in a Major League Spring Training game this year where he got a couple at bats. Another opportunity Rincon received was being selected to play in the Spring Breakout game, a game where each organization chose their top prospects to compete against another team’s top prospects.

“It felt great because a year ago I was just another guy in the organization. I thanked God and worked hard every single day and now I am the #8 prospect. So when I got selected, I was proud and thankful,” Rincon said.

Rincon started his year where he ended last year, the High-A Jersey Shore team. Even though Rincon has seen success in the minors, he still has high aspirations for the future.

“Get to the [Major Leagues], stay there a long time, win a World Series and get to the Hall of Fame are some of my goals,” Rincon said.

This story was originally published on The Oracle on May 10, 2024.