It was a dream come true for any boy who has ever stepped onto a Little League diamond.
To be drafted by a big name Major League team like the Los Angeles Dodgers is the goal of every 10-year old who dons a pair of cleats, grabs his well-oiled glove, pulls on his uniform and drags his parents to his baseball games.
So, why do Quakers fans see freshman Justin Estrada kicking a ball around Rhodes Field instead of hitting in the batter's box at Dodgers Stadium?
Estrada -- a starting defender for the Penn men's soccer team from Brandon, Fla. -- was drafted last summer by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 45th round.
But Estrada chose to put his baseball dreams on hold in order to come to Penn for the education and soccer opportunities.
"The college education was most important," Estrada said.
Baseball has always been the game du jour in the Estrada home. Estrada's father, Manny, was a professional baseball player, splitting his career between the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago White Sox. The elder Estrada is now a scout for the Montreal Expos.
As a result of his father's profession, the younger Estrada was on the diamond from a very young age. He took-up soccer as a means to stay in shape during the off-season.
"I didn't really start playing soccer until I was about 11 or 12," Estrada said. "It was a good means to keep my endurance, and it was good for the legs."
Once Estrada stepped onto the soccer field, it was evident that he was not merely a baseball player who needed to keep in shape.
Scouts and coaches took note.
"I had a coach who came and saw one of my recreational games," he said. "And he saw my athleticism and that I had good speed and was strong, and he asked me to play competitive soccer."
And so, Justin Estrada became more than a baseball player playing soccer.
Estrada would split his time throughout high school as a standout in both sports.
On the soccer field, he helped to lead his high school team to the National Championships, was a member of the Under 17 National Pool and the Region III Olympic Development Program.
His success in high school soccer led to Estrada's decision to play collegiate soccer at Penn. He was recruited by a variety of Ivy League and ACC schools, but Penn won out and Estrada committed to play for the Quakers this fall.
"It was the best combination of academics and athletics," he said.
Then he received "the call."
"I was at home just talking with my Mom and my Dad," Estrada said. "We had just gotten home, about to sit down for dinner and we got the call.
"An area scout called me up and he just said, 'congratulations, Justin, you've been drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers.' and everything goes into a blur.
"Immediately you're like, whoa, I'm going to go play professional baseball."
But Estrada decided against professional baseball, preferring to enroll as a student in the College of Arts and Sciences with hopes of potentially pursuing a major in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
"You have to think about it and weigh the choices," Estrada said. "You have to be realistic, you go pro and one break and you are gone. An education at Penn will last you the rest of your life."
Estrada has no regrets about his decision and is thrilled with his life at Penn thus far.
"I'm loving it. It's great," he said. "Our team is great. I love the atmosphere, I love the guys. I love my professors, the college life; it's really great."
And the team is loving him. Estrada has started in four of the team's six games and his defense is a huge part of the Quakers' recent success.
"He's been a very positive impact on our squad," Penn coach Rudy Fuller said. "He's a very good kid and a very driven individual and is very serious about his soccer."
Should Estrada go back on his decision to play professional ball, he has open contract negotiations with the Dodgers for a year. But, this may not be the most lucrative of decisions.
At least, not in the short term. According to Bob Howdeshell of the High School Baseball Web, "All first year minor league players receive $850.00 per month salary, only for the months that baseball is played."
As for a using his Dodger-worthy skills on Penn's own baseball team, Estrada has yet to speak to the Quakers' coach Bob Seddon, but has not discounted the idea.
"I have to see how much time I have," he said.
No matter what the future may hold in store for Estrada in either sport, he will always relish the experience of receiving that one phone call.
"How many people can say they've been drafted?" he asked.Comments powered by Disqus
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