Don't tell Todd Frazier, Andrew Bailey or Mike Trout, but rookie pitching prospect Alex Reyes doesn't think New Jersey has a big enough baseball scene.
The Cardinals right-hander spent a year honing his craft in the Dominican Republic and now the results are starting to show.
In his second professional start, the 18-year-old allowed one hit while striking out 11 batters over six innings in the Rookie-level Johnson City Cardinals' 5-1 win over the Bristol White Sox.
"I felt like I came out and did a lot better job than in my first outing," said Reyes (1-0). "I was able to throw my off-speed for strikes and I thought that had hitters guessing on what I was going to throw."
Born and raised in Elizabeth, N.J., Reyes spent the first 17 years of his life in America. He won three state championships in four years with his North Elizabeth Little League team and he pitched and played shortstop in his freshman, sophomore and junior years at Elizabeth High School.
Last winter he moved to San Cristobal -- about 30 minutes' drive outside of Santo Domingo on the Dominican Republic's South Coast -- where he stayed with his paternal grandparents and trained for 12 months.
"It was a decision me and my father came up with," said Reyes, who throws a four-seam fastball in the mid-90s, a curveball and a change-up. "We sat down and talked about it and thought it over. New Jersey is not much of a baseball state.
"I worked out a lot over there. I didn't even take a day off ... I went over there to get stronger. I'd get to the field by 8 a.m. and do a lot of board work and agility stuff and I would sometimes throw to hitters. I felt like it helped me out a lot."
After staying there a year, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound hurler became eligible to sign with any team he wanted. The Astros and the Cardinals showed the most interest in the teenager, but it was the Cardinals who won the battle, giving him a reported $950,000 as an international free agent -- the highest bonus paid out to any of their international signings in 2012.
"MLB said I wasn't able to be signed until one year after the day I entered the country," Reyes said. "I threw at a couple tryouts and St. Louis was actually the first team interested in me. If you look at the Cardinals organization, they build from the bottom instead of buying players. They have a good organization all around."
On Wednesday, Reyes fanned two batters in the first inning and he struck out the side around an infield single and a walk in the second. He whiffed his sixth batter to end the third, recorded a pair of punchouts in the fourth and struck out the side in the fifth.
That "rally" in the second frame was as much offense as the White Sox could muster against the right-hander, who retired the final 13 batters he faced.
"My fastball was my best pitch, but I was throwing my curveball and my change-up as well," said Reyes, who totaled 73 pitches. "I threw a lot of first-pitch strikes and I attacked the zone. I mixed my pitches pretty well."
In his professional debut against Kingsport last week, Reyes allowed three runs -- two earned -- on five hits and two walks over 2 1/3 innings.