Growing up in Punto Fijo, Venezuela, Reading's Freddy Galvis
was well versed in the success of fellow countrymen who excelled at shortstop in the Major Leagues.
He knows all about the credentials of Luis Aparacio, Davey Concepcion and Omar Vizquel, even though they were a generation or two ahead of him.
"I always liked to watch Omar Vizquel. That is my guy, He's my favorite player," said Galvis, a 21-year-old slick-fielding shortstop for Reading. "I never had the pleasure to meet him. One day I would love to."
Now Galvis is trying to become the latest in the line of shortstops from Venezuela to make it to the Majors.
"He has great hands," said Reading manager Mark Parent, a former big league catcher. "He has great hands and great feet.
"He thinks he has a cannon," added Parent with a smile. "He has an average arm. He likes to show off his arm sometimes" instead of holding onto the ball.
Parent said Galvis worked hard on his offensive game in the offseason and continues to do so by trying to gain strength.
"In the past it seems like you could knock the bat out of his hands in batting practice, but now he has more power," Parent said.
He had three hits at Bowie last Thursday, including his third homer in a five-game span. He added another three-hit game Sunday against New Britain to raise his average to .268 with 11 doubles, three triples, seven homers and 25 RBIs. His previous career high for homers was five, which he achieved last year with Reading.
"Right now I feel good," Galvis said. "I'm working hard in the cage and in batting practice with the coaches. I just try to keep working and hit the ball hard. I get some homers, but I try to hit liners."
Galvis said he began playing organized baseball around the age of 4 for a team coached by his father. He grew up in a small town along the beach, about six hours from the capital of Caracas.
"I would take a lot of ground balls, about 100 or 150 per day," while his young teammates focused on hitting, said Galvis.
Signed at the age of 16 by the Phillies in 2006, he began his pro career with Williamsport in the New York-Penn League. He said he spoke very little English when he joined the Crosscutters even though he took classes growing up in Venezuela.
Since he met very few Spanish speakers in Williamsport, Galvis was motivated to improve his English and has benefited from a language program run by the Phillies.
Galvis worked his way up the system and made it to Reading for 16 games in 2009. A switch-hitter, he spent all of last season in the Eastern League and hit .233 with 16 doubles, four triples, five homers and an average of .233 with a slugging mark of just .311, though he did steal 15 bases in 19 tries.
He was added to Philadelphia's 40-man roster prior to this season and needs to become more of an offensive threat to have a chance of becoming a regular at the big league level, according to Parent.
"I have to improve my offense. That is what I have to do," Galvis said.
Called to the Show: Right-hander Zach Stewart, who was 4-3 with a 4.29 ERA in 12 starts for New Hampshire, made his Major League debut for the Blue Jays in Toronto on Thursday against the Orioles. He allowed two runs in seven innings and did not figure in the decision as the Orioles won, 4-3.
Hot and cold: After hitting .125 for the first month of the season, Harrisburg catcher Derek Norris raised his average more than 100 points with a solid May that included six home runs and 12 RBIs. It's Norris' stellar defense, however, that's caught the eye of Nationals brass. "His catching is really coming along," said Bob Boone, assistant general manager/vice president of player development and a former Gold Glove catcher. "He has always had a feel for calling a game. He throws very well. He is getting better."
David Driver is a contributor to MLB.com.