Last year’s Major League Baseball draft was pretty much the best-case scenario for Ernie De La Trinidad.
What’s happened since has been pretty good, too.
Selected by the team he grew up watching — the Arizona Diamondbacks — out of UNLV in the 19th round in 2017, De La Trinidad has emerged as a reliable performer for the Cougars in his first full season as a pro.
De La Trinidad, a 22-year-old outfielder, grew up in Phoenix, winning state titles in baseball and football at Mountain Pointe High School. He spent time at Central Arizona College before landing at UNLV.
When the 5-foot-9, 165-pounder found out he was drafted by the Diamondbacks, he was excited.
“I was so happy,” De La Trinidad said. “It’s my hometown team, so you root for them. … Going into the draft, I just wanted a spring training team in Arizona. I was stoked with that.”
An added benefit in his first offseason as a professional was his proximity to the Diamondbacks’ facility in Scottsdale, about a half hour from his high school. Being close meant access to Diamondbacks’ minor league hitting coordinator Chris Cron throughout the winter.
“This past offseason I really worked on controlling the zone,” De La Trinidad said. “Me being in Arizona, I have the luxury of having the spring training facility in my back yard. I go out there and hit and that’s what I practice with (Cron). The way we take batting practice is to swing at your pitch.”
De La Trinidad has drawn a team-best 32 walks this season. But he’s also having success swinging the bat.
After enduring a four-game hitless streak, he has hit in seven straight, going 12-for-27 to raise his average to .273. He belted his fifth home run in Sunday’s 4-3 win over Wisconsin to end the first half of the season. Kane County finished fourth in the eight-team Western Division at 35-34 and did not earn a playoff berth.
“The organization is big on controlling the zone,” De La Trinidad said. “It’s definitely something that I bought into big time. You just have to swing at your pitches. If I can get a hit and get a good swing on it, I’m going to go after it. If it’s something out of the hand that it doesn’t look like I can do too much with, I spit. More times than not, I’m pretty good with the eye.”
Cougars hitting coach Rick Short notes several things working in De La Trinidad’s favor. He’s a left-handed hitter, he knows the strike zone and he can play left and right field and fill in at center.
“That adds value,” Short said. “He’s got an advanced approach. He knows what he’s looking for. He knows what he can handle. He’s kind of a student of the game. He loves to prepare. He’s polished.”
In a league with much turnover throughout the season, De La Trinidad and first baseman Yoel Yanqui have been mainstays in the Cougars’ lineup. Yanqui played in 63 first-half games, while De La Trinidad played in 62.
“On a daily basis, they both make really good contact, so it keeps the ball moving, keeps the action going, not a lot of strikeouts,” Short said. “You know what you’re going to get each and every day. These guys are kind of a steady presence and it’s kind of nice to have those guys in the lineup.”
Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.