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Daytona Beach News Journal

Former B-CC And DBCC Product Juan Figueroa, A Jupiter Hammerhead, Has Returned ‘Home’ This Week

Figueroa Proves Worth


10 June 2005
Copyright © 2005 Daytona Beach News Journal. All rights reserved.

DAYTONA BEACH – A year ago at this time Juan Figueroa was breathing a sign of relief that he’d earned the opportunity to play pro baseball.

Thus far, the Bethune-Cookman and Daytona Beach Community College product has taken full advantage of that opportunity.

Figueroa, who wasn’t even certain he’d be drafted last June, has progressed steadily since the Florida Marlins made the first baseman/outfielder their 37th-round selection of the 2004 draft.

His rapid promotion to Jupiter, the most advanced of the Marlins’ three Class A teams, has not only enhanced his stature within the organization, but it’s given the Puerto Rico native a chance to return to his home away from home.

The Hammerheads are in the midst of a three-game series with the Daytona Cubs at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, where Figueroa played the majority of his home games while starring for Bethune-Cookman.

"When we came here the first time (April 11-13) I was on the DL. I was real disappointed because my friends were here and I couldn’t play in front of them," Figueroa said prior to Wednesday’s series opener.

"Now it's a different story. I'm in the lineup and it's gonna be a good feeling playing in front of my friends. It's gonna be a thrill."

Figueroa provided plenty of thrills during his two seasons at Bethune-Cookman, helping the Wildcats extend a streak of six consecutive Mid-Eastern Conference titles that was snapped last month.

Figueroa led B-CC in batting (.383), home runs (eight) and RBIs (58) his senior season, yet was not as highly touted as teammates Sebastien Boucher and Mumba Rivera, who were selected in the seventh and 21st rounds of the 2004 draft, respectively, by the Seattle Mariners.

"I had a couple teams talking to me before the draft, but it was an 'if' situation because I didn't know for sure," said Figueroa, 23. "No one told me, 'We're gonna pick you in this round.' I was just getting phone calls, but it worked out in the end."

Figueroa wasted little time proving his worth. The 6-foot, 200-pounder was promoted to Jupiter late last season – a rarity for a first-year player – and earned a spot in the Hammerheads' lineup this season after performing well during an early-season stint with the low-A Greensboro Grasshoppers.

He was batting .326 in Greensboro when he was promoted to Jupiter. Entering Thursday's game, he ranked second on the Hammerheads in batting with a .319 average, three doubles and 12 RBIs.

"He's had a great year and has really put himself on the map," Hammerheads manager Tim Cossins said. "When you watch him swing the bat and watch him on the bag, it makes you wonder how he wasn't more (of a prospect).

"He adds a lot to any team he plays on, and that's what you're looking for from a manager's perspective. He's the kind of guy who will come out every day and not only do the work, but apply the things he's working on and really try to improve."

Some of the best judges of Figueroa's improvement were seated in the Jackie Robinson Ballpark stands Wednesday. Among those on hand to support Juan were former B-CC teammates Manny Moreno, Miguel Mercedes, Bobby Gilbert, Carlos Avendano, Luis Turmero and Francisco Gomez.

He singled and scored in his first at-bat – a familiar sight to his former teammates and current ones. Figueroa has hit consistently since signing last June, which he says is the key to his current – and future – success.

"I've been swinging it real well since I got here and that's my main goal – to be consistent," Figueroa said. "That's what's gonna get you to the Big Leagues – just being consistent, not going 3-for-4 and then having an 0-for-50 slump.

"I know that keeping my average above .300 over 140 games is gonna be real hard, but I think I can do it and I'm working hard at it. I've done a pretty good job so far. Hopefully I can keep it going."

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