TULSA — Ramon Laureano has fulfilled a longtime dream by becoming a professional baseball player.
But he realizes he’s still got a lot of work ahead to make the next step.
Laureano, who played baseball at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in 2013 and 2014, feels he needs to improve in “every area, every aspect of the game. I am trying to learn from everything I go through and make the most of it.”
He’s in his second year as an outfielder with the Corpus Christi Hooks, the AA affiliate of the Houston Astros.
“This is my dream. I always wanted to work towards my goal,” Laureano said prior to Friday’s game in Tulsa against the Drillers. “That has always been my goal. I will keep working towards it for it as long as I can play.”
A number of his friends from NEO, as well as coach Roger Ward, were expected to catch up with Laureano during the weekend series.
“I enjoyed my time at NEO,” Laureano said. “It was the best two years of my life. I have a bunch of friends from NEO who are coming tonight and this weekend. It was a great time. We had a great baseball team, and it’s a great baseball program.”
“He used to talk about being a professional player. You hear that all the time,” Ward said. “They say it, but then they don’t want to put in the time and hard work to get themselves mentally ready or learn the game at the level they need to learn it at. That was never a problem with Ramon. He was always very dedicated. He played incredibly hard.”
Ward credited former Norse assistant and current Miami High School coach Jeremy Strack with having a lot to do with that.
“Coach Strack and he are very similar in that they are high energy type guys,” Ward said. “Ramon was a joy to have around. You didn’t have to worry about him.”
A native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Laureano had 43 stolen bases in 57 attempts as a sophomore at NEO.
He earned all-Region 2 honors as a sophomore at NEO, hitting .439, with 19 doubles and 13 home runs.
He scored 55 runs and had 22 stolen bases.
“It wasn’t my first time to live on my own, but it was the first time doing anything I wanted to do without the permission of my parents,” Laureano joked.
He was one of four players from the 2014 Golden Norse squad and seven from Oklahoma schools that were selected in the MLB draft.
Three were picked by the Astros: Laureano, pitcher Dean Deetz and shortstop Brad Antchak.
A fourth member of that team, pitcher Jake Jewell, signed with the Angels.
The three Houston signees were bird-dogged by former Norse assistant Jim Stevenson.
“It was pretty unique,” Laureano said.
The 5-11, 185-pound Laureano was hitting only .196 through the Hooks’ first 49 games.
He spent the 2014 season with the Greenville Astros of the Class A rookie Appalachian League.
Then in 2015, he was with the Quad City River Bandits of the Midwest League.
Laureano, who started last season at High-A Lancaster, led Minor League Baseball with a .428 on-base percentage in 2016.
Laureano started in center field for the Hooks in Friday’s game but has played the other two outfield positions.
A night earlier, he showed flashes of having the bat come around, collecting a homer, double and single.
“They like people that work hard, and he’s a hard worker,” Ward said. “Ramon is probably the hardest worker that I’ve ever had here. He was part of a group of guys that dedicated themselves to making themselves better baseball players.”
Deetz, picked in the 11th round, was promoted to the AAA Fresno Grizzlies last week.
He spent the bulk of 2016 with the Lancaster JetHawks, where he struck out 17 and walked two in 12 shutout innings over a pair of Texas League starts to finish the season.
The Astros selected Antchak in the fifth round. He passed up a chance to sign by playing his next two seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette.
Jewell has split time between Mobile in the Southern League and Inland Empire of the California League.
Despite the change in scenery, some things never change for Laureano from his days at NEO: he still rides a bus to games and would get a box lunch during spring training.
He likes playing in Corpus Christi.
“Corpus Christi has a good fan base,” Laureano said. “They are very passionate about the game. The weather is really humid, but I am used to it since I live in the Caribbean. I remember Miami could get humid, too.”