Ricardo Lizcano, the most decorated player in the history of Heidelberg baseball, is now the first to sign a professional contract with a major league team.
Head Coach and Athletic Director Matt Palm announced today that Lizcano has signed a free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. After passing his team physical earlier today, Lizcano is scheduled to join the Cardinals’ Johnson City, Tenn., rookie affiliate when the team returns home tonight.
“I’m really excited for him. This has been something that he has wanted, worked really hard at and dreamed about,” said Palm.
Lizcano, who graduated in May from Heidelberg with his bachelor’s degree in sport management and business administration, was the only Student Prince to start every game this season. The 5’11” outfielder/shortstop is a two-time All American and the 2010 Ohio Athletic Conference Player of the Year. During the 2012 campaign, he hit .346 with a league-leading eight home runs and team highs of 48 RBI and 39 runs scored. His .635 slugging percentage was an OAC best.
He ended his Heidelberg career by setting school records in career home runs (34), walks (111), total bases (435) and slugging percentage.
For Lizcano, the news hasn’t yet sunk in. Reached in Virginia earlier this week, where he met up with the Johnson City Cardinals on a road trip, Lizcano said he was disappointed when he watched the recent major league draft and his phone didn’t ring. “I didn’t get my hopes up too much because the draft is so unpredictable,” he said.
His coach, however, wasn’t surprised. “I knew he was a very talented player and he would have as good a shot as anyone in our program ever has,” said Palm, who recruited Lizcano out of Toledo Start High School.
After the draft, Lizcano stayed in contact with Cardinals’ scouts, tried out with an independent team and maintained his baseball activities. The call finally came late Sunday evening (June 24). By 8:30 a.m. the next day, he was on a plane.
Lizcano said he’s dreamed of playing baseball professionally since he was young. The Toledo native first picked up a baseball at age 2 and has been playing organized ball since he was 5.
At 5’4” and 110 pounds as a high school freshman, Lizcano has since silenced all his doubters. “Because of my size, people would always tell me I couldn’t make it in baseball, but I took that as motivation,” he said. By his senior year at Heidelberg, he had grown to 5’11” and 190 pounds.
Being drafted “has definitely been a dream of mine and a long-term goal,” he said. “Having an opportunity to get drafted, I accomplished a goal I set for myself.”
The Cardinals have pegged Lizcano as a catcher. While he played primarily outfield and shortstop with the Student Princes, he has experience at that position. In fact, the first game he started for Heidelberg was behind the plate, according to Palm, who said Lizcano’s arm strength caught the eye of Cardinals’ scouts and coaches when he participated in a small-school showcase.
“There were discussions that his arm strength might help him get in (with a major league organization),” Palm said. “He was on the draft board as a catcher.” He thinks Lizcano’s even temperament may suit him well at arguably the most important defensive position on the field.
“One of the great things about him is that he’s played so many different positions for us,” Palm said. “His ability to play anywhere and everywhere is going to help him. … “He’ll have to be patient and continue to work hard as he learns a new position.”
Palm credits Lizcano’s work ethic, in the classroom and on the field, as major factors contributing to his success. “He’s just a great kid. He came in and worked really hard in the classroom and spent extra time on the field. He battled and persevered and did things the right way.”