Almonte Chooses Frontier League Over College
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
Danny Almonte planned to graduate high school last year, then attend junior college in New Mexico. He had been bypassed in the major league draft in June and did not have the grades to play Division I college baseball.
But Almonte, 20, has struggled with controversy since 2001, when his eye-opening performance in the Little League World Series was erased because he was two years too old. He never graduated high school, did not enroll in college, and on Tuesday signed his first professional contract, with the Southern Illinois Miners in Marion, Ill., of the Frontier League.
Last July, Almonte moved to Florida to train, according to Mike Turo, the coach at James Monroe High School in Bronx. After flirting with attending another junior college, Almonte returned to the Bronx in November.
At that point, Turo said, Almonte planned on pitching at Queensboro Community College in Bayside. But those plans, like his previous ones, fell through as well.
Mike Pinto, the manager and director of baseball operations for the Miners, said he knew a scout that saw Almonte throw in Florida last fall.
“It initially started last October; there was still some question of whether he wanted to go to junior college in the spring,” Pinto said in a telephone interview. “I spoke to Danny a couple of times. I then spoke to his cousin, who helps him as an adviser, and that is where it took off from. We talked a few times, and by Thursday of last week we had the paperwork put together.”
The Frontier League is designed for younger players that had been passed over in the draft and were looking for a first chance, Pinto said. The quality of baseball is close to Class A ball, he added.
Frontier League teams cannot have any players over age 27, and 12 of the 24 players must be rookies.
Almonte, 20, will make $600 a month, Pinto said.
“I am shocked,” Turo said of Almonte’s decision Tuesday in a telephone interview. “I just wanted him to go to college and get out of here.” Referring to Almonte, Pinto said, “Obviously there are not a lot of young lefties that can throw 90 miles per hour, and a slider in the 80’s.”
“If he performs well,” Pinto said, “I can give his rights to any major league team at any point. That is what our league is built on. We are the first chance or the last chance. He might be able to go in the draft, but there is no chance unless he is able to show off his talent.”