Luis Almeyda was signed by the Orioles as an international free agent this past January. The shortstop, who turned 17 in April, was given a $2.3 million signing bonus, establishing a new franchise record for an amateur free agent.
The Dominican Summer League began this week and Almeyda already has his first professional home run under his belt. He is currently ranked as the Orioles’ No. 24 prospect according to MLB Pipeline and No. 23 according to Baseball America.
I recently had a chance to chat with Luis on Give That Fan a Podcast, where we discussed baseball and life. Some questions and answers are edited for length and clarity. The full episode can be viewed below.
Ryan: You moved to the Dominican Republic a couple years ago and a lot has changed in a really short amount of time. Have you had a chance to sit down and reflect on these last couple years?
Almeyda: Yeah, it took some time to really calm down and think things through, but right now I’m starting to understand things a little bit better about everything on and off the field. This is a great opportunity and a blessing to be here and everyday I’m learning little by little.
Is there something cool that you bought when you first signed, or did you just put some money away?
So far, not yet. Still just trying to be smart with it. It’s a blessing to have it, but so far, no.
You grew up in Paterson, New Jersey and lived there until you were 15. Be honest with me, did you grow up a Yankees fan?
To be honest with you, I was actually an O’s fan. It’s gonna sound like, “oh, you signed with the O’s,” but I was an O’s. Fan. I was a fan of Manny Machado. I even have pictures of me when I was young, like 6-7 years old, with an O’s hat, so I’m not even lying. Yeah, I was a really big fan of Manny Machado back in the day.
Did you make it down to Camden Yards to catch a few games when you were a kid?
Actually, no, the closest I’ve been to that area is Aberdeen at the Cal Ripken complex when I was younger. That’s the closest I’ve ever been inside of Maryland.
Who are some guys, obviously Machado is one of them, but who are some players you looked up to, not just as your favorite players but guys you tried to model your game after? In other words, whose batting stances did you try to copy when you were playing Little League?
When I was like 13, it was [Ronald] Acuña, hands in the middle, stride back. It’s actually still Acuña right now, but not with a leg kick, it’s with a toe tap. So right now, I’m copying Acuña’s style but adding a little spice, doing my own thing with it. But the same hand position and everything.
How did moving to the Dominican Republic and experiencing a different type of baseball than travel ball in the United States motivate you and change you?
It just made me hungrier. Here (in the DR), there’s one goal and one goal only: to get signed. It’s actually been a blessing to be here because when I have kids to my left and right that would sell a leg just to get signed, hungry, it pushed me as well and made me better mentally on and off the field. More humble, thankful for everything I do, every time I train, thankful that I am where I am right now. Even though it’s just the beginning and there’s hopefully more to go, God willing. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been learning to be more appreciative of what I have and it’s been a blessing.
Was there a point in your life or in your baseball career that made you kind of realize, “oh, I might be able to go pro in this”?
My goal was always to go pro, that’s everyone’s goal hopefully when they play, but I don’t know, it was not like, “oh, I’m gonna be a professional baseball player,” but I’m happy about the way it went. I’m glad it happened like this.
When did you first realize that the Orioles were interested in you and what was that process like from your first contact with the team to then eventually signing your contract?
It’s been a blessing. They’ve treated me well, they contacted me I think in 2021 but I chose the O’s because they treated me with love, the staff and everybody treated me right, so everyone is like one big family in the Dominican Republic and in Sarasota. It’s a lovely organization and I love where I’m at.
What was your signing day like?
It was a crazy day. I was at the table, not on my phone, relaxed, waiting for my name to be called up, and Koby Perez (Orioles Senior Director, International Scouting) comes up to me and was like, “hey, you know you’re trending on Twitter, right?” I was like, “what?” So I go to Twitter and search my name and that’s when it hit me like, OK, alright, this is a big step.
Looking back at all of your experiences, do you have a favorite baseball memory?
Almeyda: *thinking hard*
Is it signing with the Orioles?
*laughs* Yeah, signing with the Orioles, that’s one. Oh, Cooperstown. When I was with my 12U team, the Jersey Storm, we went to Cooperstown, and it was a really nice experience. Other than signing with the O’s, Cooperstown was very fun. It was a glimpse of having fun playing backyard baseball, and ever since I left Cooperstown I’ve had that mentality. Just having fun, being around my teammates, having a family environment.
When you’re not playing baseball, what do you like to do for fun?
I play MLB The Show or just sit around with a laptop and play some games, relax, and talk with my guys cause we all sleep in the dorms here. Talk with the guys, laugh, have fun, that’s about it.
Did you reach out to MLB The Show and get your own personal 99 card?
Dude, I wish. That would be cool. But it’s really early right now, I just have to do my job, hopefully if everything goes great it will happen, but it would be a dream come true if that happens.
What have you learned so far about being a professional baseball player and working with the guys around you?
Before, when failure happened in practice or something was hard, I used to get upset. But now, if I’m struggling or getting challenged, I’m actually starting to love it. So just learning how to be challenged as a professional has taught me many lessons. Being challenged makes you better on and off the field. If it’s hitting the machine with foam balls or with vertical movement, it used to be really hard and I would get upset. But then I learned how to get better at it.
Are there any players in particular that you’re excited about the possibility of being big league teammates with?
One of my friends, Samuel Basallo, actually all the guys in Delmarva and High-A, I’m excited for them and I hope they all succeed. As an organization, everyone’s trying to achieve a dream. I want everyone to succeed around me. I know it’s impossible but that’s the mentality we have to have. But two of the guys have been cool with me since I signed, Juan Nunez and Samuel Basallo.
Have you gotten a chance to get to know some of the Orioles’ other recent international signings or players who are in pro ball with the Orioles? What have they helped you with as you transition from being an amateur to now being a professional?
One thing I’m still trying to figure out, I can’t say that I’ve mastered it yet, is how to be a professional on and off the field. When I was down in Sarasota, I learned and I’m still trying to learn how to talk, mannerisms, just trying to be a professional, a well-educated person off the field. I can see how a lot of the guys carry themselves, how they dress, keep their locker organized, just the little things that add up I’ve been keeping an eye on.
I know a lot of your teammates, family, and friends call you Ayden. Do you have any nicknames other than Ayden?
Yeah, they call me Bombi. Fireman in Spanish. Bombi or Bombero, because my dad’s a fireman.
Do you have any baseball superstitions?
Oh my gosh, I do, I have a lot. Always keep the sliding mitt in the back left pocket when I hit. When I go up to home plate, touch all four corners. When I step into the batter’s box, right foot twist twice, hit the four corners. Oh, and there’s one more. Every time before I go to hit, take my glove, put it on the bench, take my hat, put it backwards on top of the glove.
I’ve seen videos of you wearing number 15, 21, and 47. Do you know what number you’re going to wear this season and is there a number you want to wear in the big leagues?
This year, I don’t know, we’re still trying to figure that out. But big leagues, number 21 or number 7.
Is there any significance to those numbers?
21, Roberto Clemente. 7, I’m a Christian, so I believe God made the earth in seven days.
Did you follow the World Baseball Classic? If given the chance in the future, do you think you would play for Team USA or the Dominican Republic?
That’s actually a question that everyone asks me because I’m also half Puerto Rican. I’m Dominican and Puerto Rican, my pops is Puerto Rican. So, I don’t know, just depends how the road takes me because that is a hard decision. But if everything goes right, and I have a long career, hopefully I can play for all three.
Time for some rapid-fire questions to wrap up the interview. Just answer whatever first comes to mind. You ready?
Water or Gatorade?
Burgers, pizza, or steak?
Steak or crabcakes?
Steak but when I get to Baltimore we’ll have to see.
Would you rather go out or stay in?
Would you rather be able to change the past or see the future?
See the future.
If you could have any superpower, aside from seeing the future, what would it be?
Anywhere in particular you would go first?
A: Uhhhhhhhh, Hawaii.
You’ve got the aux in the clubhouse; what are you playing?
“If Looks Could Kill” by Destroy Lonely.
Would that be your walk-up song, or would you pick something different?
That would be my walk-up song.
Favorite TV show or movie?
Last show you binge-watched on Netflix?
Favorite sport besides baseball?
Favorite athlete outside of baseball?
Oh my God, can we go back to that other question? It’s not basketball. I like watching UFC.
So, would your favorite athlete be a UFC fighter?
A: Yeah, Jon Jones.