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Reed backstop keeps power stroke going
by Aaron Retherford
Mar 10, 2008 | 1149 views | 0 0 comments | 80 80 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<B>Tribune/Chris Ellis</b> - Reed senior CJ Maldonado hopes to lead the Raiders back to the playoffs with his bat after an impossible to ignore junior season.
Tribune/Chris Ellis - Reed senior CJ Maldonado hopes to lead the Raiders back to the playoffs with his bat after an impossible to ignore junior season.
CJ Maldonado's goal was always to play baseball in college. But after losing out on his entire sophomore season due to academic ineligibility, he knew he had to do something spectacular in his junior campaign to make up for the lost time and impress college coaches.

"I wanted to go out and make a name for myself and try to get a college scholarship and get college coaches to look at me," Maldonado said.

He certainly did that.

Maldonado earned first team all-league honors after tying for the league lead with nine home runs. He also scored 20 runs and knocked in 14 RBIs during the 18-game High Desert League schedule. The Reed catcher finished with a 1.078 slugging percentage and .451 batting average

More importantly, he caught the eye of Western Nevada College's baseball coach, D.J. Whittemore.

Maldonado signed a letter of intent this past January to continue his baseball career with the Wildcats.

"I think it's incredible. It's awesome for him and awesome for his family. If he keeps working hard, he's going to go beyond that," Reed baseball coach Jon Foss said. "That's one thing you've got to say about Coach Whittemore and WNC. They've already shown they have the ability to get guys to the Division I level or professional level for that matter. If he keeps his nose clean and keeps working hard in the classroom and learns a couple things here and there, he's going to move on to one of those levels."

Since the spring of 2006, 11 WNC players have signed with Division I programs.

Maldonado made Reed's varsity squad as a freshman, but didn't get into many games.

He viewed it as an opportunity to experience what the varsity level was like.

Foss saw something special in him though.

"You saw his bat speed, and he didn't care how fast the guy is throwing or whatever the challenge may be," Foss said. "He goes up there and takes his hacks. He's a free swinger. The majority of the time it pays off."

While missing his sophomore campaign didn't help his growth, Maldonado stayed with the team as a manager. He was able to play in the following summer, and his hard work paid off last year. It didn't even look like he had missed a season.

"I work really hard in practice and in the offseason, but I think somehow it all just clicked for me. Everything came together finally," he said.

Maldonado hopes it will keep coming together after he graduates from Reed High. He wants to reach the pros.

"I'm trying to work really hard to get that far. Baseball is a big part of my life and my family's lives," Maldonado said.

Foss said he is proud of Maldonado for everything he has achieved so far.

"I've been friends of the family since I started coaching at Reed," the Raiders' fifth-year coach said. "It's great to see this young man develop into a great baseball player, and not only that, but most importantly into a great person."

Maldonado has battled knee problems in his career, a norm for many catchers. Foss wants to make sure he's fresh and ready for the regional tournament and not hobbling through it, so Maldonado will split time behind the plate and also see action in the outfield.

The ability for him to make the jump to the outfield just shows his athleticism because finding a catcher who can roam the outfield is rare.

Foss also attributes Maldonado's versatility to his instincts and his baseball mind.

"His whole family is baseball fanatics. It's just in the blood," Foss said.

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