Former Heritage baseball star Gio Diaz has found success at the next level, setting a stolen base record in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League (CRCBL) this summer as he prepares for his junior year at St. Mary’s College in Moraga.
Diaz, 19, who started 42 games for the Gaels as a sophomore, says he has been working on his speed in his efforts to become a better player. It paid off this summer, as he set a new CRCBL record with 43 stolen bases. He only racked up three steals with St. Mary’s, but went into the summer collegiate baseball league with a goal of 15 SBs for Maryland’s Bethesda Big Train.
“Most of my focus was on running better and getting stolen bases and being a threat on the base paths,” Diaz said.
He met that goal on June 21, only 14 games into the season. He didn’t stop there, though, going on to break the single-season steals record on June 30, barely halfway through the season. He would go on to break the career record, which had held up for 14 years.
On July 10, he was the leadoff hitter for the Maryland All-Stars in the Ripken League. He would go on to rack up four hits — including a home run and two doubles — and drive in four runs on his way to earning MVP honors.
Diaz models his game after Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, a four-time Major League Baseball All-Star who is known not only for his incredible play, but for the positive attitude he brings to the game.
“I think that’s just the way Puerto Ricans and Latin players play the game,” said Diaz, when asked about Lindor’s effusive demeanor on the field. “We’re taught at a young age that this game is fun, and when we play, it’s not so much pressure, it’s just something we’ve been doing so long that it just becomes something fun to do. Ultimately, it’s just a game and everyone plays it to have fun. It’s a privilege to play, and when you’re at that level, you have no choice but to have fun.”
He wants to emulate Lindor on the field as well.
“He is my favorite player and someone I’ve been watching since I was little,” Diaz said. “I feel like we are similar.”
They’re both 5’11” and both play shortstop. Lindor has a unique combination of speed and power, which are two things Diaz wants to improve in his own game.
“My goal is to ultimately play major league baseball,” Diaz said. “It’s been my goal as long as I can remember to play MLB baseball and follow in the footsteps of the greats. My goal is to try to get there as soon as possible, so I’m continuing to work hard, follow my routines, listen to my coaches and ultimately get drafted.”
Diaz’s work paid off in the CRCBL this summer, and he’s looking forward to a successful junior season at St. Mary’s. While he has made great strides on the base paths, he’s also looking forward to incorporating more power hitting into his game.
“I want to improve in every aspect of the game,” he said. “Right now, I’m working on my speed. That’s something I’m really fine-tuning because that’s a skillset that I think I can really exploit. I’m working defensively to make every single play. Offensively, I’m just working on sticking to my approach, which is to see the ball and hit the ball hard, and not try to do too much. I think the power is going to come, it’s just a matter of time and maturing into my body and getting stronger.”
In addition to being named to the CRCBL First-Team and winning All-Star MVP honors, Diaz was awarded the “Outstanding Hustle” award by Big Train Manager Sal Colangelo.