GENEVA – After playing on four minor-league teams this summer alone, Cougars 23-year-old designated hitter Luis Lara is finally settling in.
“I absolutely feel more comfortable about it,” Lara said through a translator, prior to his 22nd game with Kane County this past week.
“I'm getting my confidence back… playing the way I like to play.”
Lara found help adjusting to his latest team through Cougars first baseman Yoel Yanqui.
Lara and Yanqui knew each other in the Dominican Republic, long before they came to the United States with dreams of playing professional baseball.
“[Me] and Yanqui go way back, back home…so [I’m] happy to be here with him," Lara said.
Yanqui, himself batting a solid .290, has 14 hits over his past 10 games.
“[We’re] always together,” Yanqui said about he and Lara. “...we eat together, practice together, work out together... he's a guy that was always together from back then, way back to the Dominican Republic."
“He’s always happy to know that one of his closest friends is going to get the call, and be at the same level as him,” Yanqui said through a translator.
Lara went undrafted, and was later signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016.
“I've been ready since I was 16,” Lara said through his translator.
Rather than being distraught by going undrafted, Lara uses it as a motivation to keep working hard.
“Thankfully [I] got the opportunity to be signed by the Diamondbacks,” he said.
Since his signing, life has been anything but easy. Over the past three seasons, Lara has played for a total of seven different minor league teams.
“It’s been tough,” Lara said on his constant movement. “When [I] started getting used to a league and stuff, that’s when [I’d get] called up, or sent down.”
Lara admits he is not having the year he wants to have. He's batting only .193 in 88 at bats, and attributed it to an inability to get in a groove on one particular team. However, Lara’s movement did come with benefits.
Lara began the year playing in Triple-A for the Reno Aces. While he only played one game before being sent down to the Double-A Jackson Generals, his stint with the Aces was “a great experience.”
“It's a different brand of baseball,” he said. “[I] got the chance to play with a lot of veterans, a lot of players that have been in the league already.”
The most notable of those veterans was pitcher Clay Buchholz, who spent the first part of this summer pitching in the minors for both the Kansas City Royals and the Arizona Diamondbacks organizations.
Other notable teammates of Lara’s were Yasmany Tomas, Ildemaro Vargas, and former Cougar Michael Perez, who made his major-league debut with the Tampa Bay Rays on July 26.
Now that Lara has settled in for what could be the rest of the summer, he plans to use what he learned from Triple-A to enhance his own game.
“Overall, [I] got better mentally… learned more with the game,” Lara said. “...just going to go out there and work hard… leave the results in God’s hands and see where this year takes [me].”