Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 6/7/12
HOUSTON On an afternoon where seemingly no stone was left unturned, when every conceivable question was asked of Carlos Correa, his gushing family, and the available members of the Astros' front office and scouting staff, there was one curious bit of mystery: How did Correa come by a personalized black bat of Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto? Correa broke the bat during his fourth round of batting practice on Thursday, leaving a slender split down the handle before tossing it aside and grabbing a spare provided by Astros third baseman Chris Johnson. With every attempt made to render Correa as transparent as possible, perhaps it's best if this oddity is left unsolved. In a span of hours Correa, the first overall selection in the 2012 first-year player draft, completed a physical, signed a 4.8 million contract, met with the media (several times), and took infield and batting practice with his new organization. Whirlwind doesn't do the past four days justice. Correa was in Secaucus, N.J. when the Astros made him the first Puerto Rican taken first in the draft. He returned to Santa Isabel to a raucous celebration soon thereafter, sleep deprived by revelers elated over the significance of the historic moment. He was in Houston Wednesday night and on parade the next day. That he appeared so composed despite his fatigue came as little surprise to the scouts who spent the last year charting his development. "The way he's handled himself, to go along with the tools that he has, are phenomenal," Astros area scout (South FloridaPuerto Rico) Larry Pardo said. "For me the intangibles are huge. When you look back at players from other franchises that I was involved with like Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun and you see how mature those guys were, they were men in kids' bodies. Once they got in front of people that they had to perform for it wasn't even a second thought. They were able to do that instinctively." At this stage of the analysis cycle, itemizing the tools Correa brings to the table feels redundant. The Astros drafted him because he can hit and has the potential to hit for power. He has impressive arm strength and fluidity in his feet. At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, he has the makings of a physically imposing middle infielder or a prototypical third baseman. None of these revelations are new. They have been discussed to no end. What the Astros aimed to reveal on Thursday was the side of Correa that left them convinced that he could one day serve as the face of the franchise. His burning desire to be a big leaguer and hall of famer was on display. The family that set the foundation for his work ethic, including his indefatigable father Carlos Sr., beamed from the back of the room yet projected a toughness that emanated through their son. When Correa spoke of scaling the minors and earning his keep with the Astros, sincerity seeped from his words. He was a picture of modesty and grace, humility and longing. Correa won't turn 18 until September. "Every young player is going to get drafted and signed. My goal always has been to get to the Hall of Fame," Correa said. "I'm going to work hard to reach the big leagues; that's one of my goals. My first goal was to be the first pick, so I made it. Right now I'm going to aim higher and go to the big leagues and go to the Hall of Fame. That's all I want. That's my goal." That Correa spoke so plainly was reflective of his place in history. His selection inspired pride from the Puerto Ricans who came before him. Ivan Rodriguez, undoubtedly a future Hall of Fame inductee, was in Secaucus on behalf of the Rangers and voiced his support after Correa. Carlos Delgado, whose 473 home runs are the most by a Puerto Rican, acknowledged the gravity of the moment and congratulated Correa via Twitter. Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Yadier Molina posed for photos with Correa sandwiched between them with Beltran, perhaps the last great player to emerge from Puerto Rico, effusive in his praise of the prospect many expect to carry the mantle for the island. "When he was selected I was able to call him and congratulate him and let him know that we're proud of him," Beltran said. "Hopefully he'll continue to develop the right way and be a superstar in the big leagues. "There's going to be a lot of expectations of him, but I believe that he's going to be able to handle everything the right way." When word was relayed to Correa what Beltran had said of him, he stammered. How could a 17-year-old digest such plaudits when taken in the context of the legends that put the island of Puerto Rico on the map? Three Puerto Ricans are in the Hall of Fame: outfielder Roberto Clemente, outfielderfirst baseman Orlando Cepeda, and second baseman Roberto Alomar. Correa will wear No. 12 in honor or Alomar, who wore that number for 98.4 percent of his 2,379 big-league games. He appears acutely aware of his place in that lineage, and furthermore, seems undaunted by the responsibility being heaped on his shoulders. Those who aren't averse to hard work tend not to shy from obligation. It might take years before the Astros cash in on that potential, but Correa has provided numerous reasons to believe in his promise. He will return to Puerto Rico to graduate as valedictorian on Sunday before moving to Florida to begin a career the Astros believe is earmarked for greatness. "Obviously you're talking about carrying the label of your franchise," Astros scouting director Bobby Heck said. "We do all kinds of work. The biggest worry you have is what happens when they face adversity? He's going to go out and have a time when he fails. He's never failed because he's always been the best player. And then you find out how he's made and you feel comfortable knowing that he'll get through that because of his ability and how strong his work ethic is. "He'll get past that." Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
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