Despite being just 20 years old and having never played a game at Double-A, Cubs prospect Albert Almora has a long-term goal that surpasses superficial statistics, highlights and win-loss records.
He wants to leave a legacy, to be remembered. To Almora, the greatest thing that can happen is that people talk about him when his time on the field has come to an end. Right now, he's certainly leaving his mark on the Florida State League.
The 2012 first-rounder may have the end game somewhere in the back of his mind, but he's playing in the present. On Monday, he went 5-for-7 in hitting for Daytona's fourth cycle in franchise history en route to the Cubs' 13-8 victory over the Jupiter Hammerheads.
The No. 4 Cubs prospect homered in the first inning, singled in the eighth (and 11th), doubled in the ninth and tripled in the 13th to write his name into the record books.
"Since I was a little kid, I wanted to play baseball," Almora said. "I took the game seriously. My dad was a hard-working man and he told me that if I wanted to do this, we'd do it every day to make me the best I can be. There are so many things [that motivate me]. I can't really say what. I just want to be remembered in the game of baseball.
"I want people to say I play the game hard. I just think I can improve my game every day. I don't like to say I have one best thing. I'm just trying to work on everything. When I retire, I just hope some people say they remember me."
The last D-Cubs player to hit for the cycle was Brett Jackson on June 14, 2010. Adam Greenberg was the first to accomplish the feat in a Daytona uniform (2002) and Felix Pie replicated the achievement in 2004.
Ranked 15th among MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, Almora homered to left field off Austin Brice to get his cycle bid underway. It gave him three dingers in eight games and was the first since he went yard in both games of a doubleheader on June 7.
"To be honest, it just happened so fast," the center fielder said of his sixth homer of the year. "The leadoff guy [Marco Hernandez] hit a home run. I came right back and just wanted to square something up pretty good and hit it hard.
"I was ahead, 2-1, and he threw me a pitch I could hit, a fastball inside. It was a great feeling off the bat. A lot of guys say when you hit a home run, you don't feel it, that you just hear the noise. I didn't feel it in the bat, I just looked up and watched it disappear."
Almora, selected sixth overall in 2012, put Daytona on top when he doubled home two runs with a single to center in the eighth off Reid Redman with two outs in the ninth. He almost put the Cubs ahead again in the 11th when he singled to right, but Jordan Hankins was thrown out at home by Cody Keefer while trying to score from second on the play.
The 20-year-old made sure it was a little easier for his teammates the next time he came to plate. With the game still tied, 8-8, in the 13th, Almora ripped a two-run triple to center field off Colby Suggs to give Daytona a lead it would not relinquish.
"To be honest, it was a little bit of luck and a little bit of concentration," Almora said. "It hasn't sunk in yet. It's not every day you hit for the cycle. I feel blessed and I'll take it all in tomorrow. [In the 13th inning], hitting coach Mariano Duncan told me to hit a triple. I just wanted to get a base hit, but he said all you need is the triple for the cycle. I didn't know, with all the emotions of the game.
"I just wanted to hit something really hard. When it left my bat, I said to myself if the ball drops in the gap, I'm just going to keep running. I didn't want to trip, just stay on my feet. I stumbled, but the throw went to home. Everybody was excited, but it wasn't even about the triple. It was that we were up by two in the 13th."
The Florida native was the second player to hit for the cycle in the Florida State League this season and the 15th player to accomplish the feat in the Minors in 2014. Brevard County's Tyrone Taylor wrote his name into the record books on a perfect 5-for-5 night at the plate against Clearwater on April 29.
It was also one of three cycles in the Minors on Monday. Grant Kay did so in his professional debut for short-season Hudson Valley in a 16-4 rout of Batavia and fellow Cubs prospect Mark Zagunis did it for short-season Boise a couple hours after Almora.
The five hits tied Almora's career high, while his five RBIs surpassed his previous mark of four, set in a three-double game for Daytona against Charlotte on May 13. The four runs also set a new personal high for the center fielder.
Almora went 5-for-6 against Brevard County on April 5 and he also collected five hits for the Cubs' Arizona League affiliate on Aug. 13, 2012.