Hours before Houston’s Carlos Correa became the first player from Puerto Rico to go No. 1 overall in the Major League Baseball draft, Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltrán paused for a second and thought about how youngsters on the island would fare if they didn't have to go through a draft imposed on them since 1989.

While ballplayers in Latin American baseball hotbeds like Venezuela and the Dominican Republic can sign as soon as they turn 16 years old, the boys in La Isla del Encanto have to wait it out until they've graduated from high school.

The beginning of the international signing period isn't until July 2, but one could just think about the amount of teams courting the services of Correa and the millions that he and others could fetch in an open market.

Beltrán recalled the phone call he got from the Kansas City Royals after they had selected him in the second round of the 1995 draft. A 49th overall pick, he termed the day a blessing.

Beltrán views the selection process --which started Monday night and concludes tomorrow-- as a two-way street.

I really, strongly believe that Carlos going number one and being the type of player he is, it's going to spark a new interest in baseball in the island and make the kids to have more interest in baseball.

- Larry Pardo, the Houston Astros area scout for Puerto Rico and South Florida

"The positive is that the kids have to study. They have to have at least have a high school (education),” he said. “A lot of the times these players that come from Santo Domingo, Venezuela don't have the opportunity to go to school. They dedicate themselves to baseball and if they don't achieve getting there, they don't have an education."

Molina already had an idea of how the draft process worked before he was picked. After all, his two brothers, Benji and José, had been drafted a few years before the Cardinals made the younger Molina their fourth round pick and 113th overall selection in the 2000 draft.

Catchers with Molina's skills are a rarity these days. You can count with one hand the number of backstops that can impact the game at the major league level the way St. Louis’ three-time All-Star has been able to do so year in and year out.

Imagine just how much he could have gone for in the open market.

"I've never thought about. I went through the draft and look where I'm at,” the winner of the last four gold gloves told Fox News Latino. “You can come out of the draft or as a free agent but if you apply and dedicate yourself, you will reach the big leagues.

Molina is aware of what the effect of draft on the players that come out of Puerto Rico. “Youngsters older than 19 are not seen by scouts as young anymore. But that's what it is. I don't know what decision would be the more just one, I'm not sure whether it's the draft or through free agency.”

By the 80's, Puerto Rico’s presence in the MLB was being overshadowed by the Dominican Republic. 

But Puerto Rico still contributed impact players like Iván Rodríguez, Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar Jr., and his brother, Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar.

Beltrán, who just opened an academy last August similar to the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy from where Correa was drafted, still holds hope to see more young kids get that shot of living their dreams and becoming a Major League Baseball player.

“The way you can resolve things in Puerto Rico is by creating places where these guys can have a fair opportunity, so that they can be developed and can represent Puerto Rico, and have the chance to be in the draft,” Beltran said.

He sees Correa going No. 1 as the first step towards restoring Puerto Rico's standing in the Baseball world.

Two other kids from Puerto Rico were selected in the complementary round that was sandwiched between the first two rounds of the draft. José Berrios, a righthanded pitcher was the 32nd pick by the Minnesota Twins. The Los Angeles Dodgers used the 51st pick in the same round to select Jesmuel Valentín, a shortstop and teammate of Correa.

"I really, strongly believe that Carlos going number one and being the type of player he is, it's going to spark a new interest in baseball in the island and make the kids to have more interest in baseball," said Larry Pardo, the Houston Astros area scout for Puerto Rico and South Florida.

Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at elpiloto137@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc

 

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