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Baseball has long been in Dietrich's blood

Baseball has long been in Dietrich's blood

Baseball has long been in Dietrich's blood
MIAMI -- The baseball dream was pretty much a reality to Derek Dietrich at an early age.

At 7 he was already taking batting practice on Minor League fields and sitting next to scouts holding a radar gun.

Now a 23-year-old infield prospect, Dietrich had the sport instilled in him from the time he could walk and talk. He also had the benefit of having someone close to home who was an expert in the field.

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Dietrich's maternal grandfather, Steve Demeter, is a former big league third baseman, as well as a Minor League manager and scout.

"My parents always said it: Baseball was absolutely in my blood," Dietrich said.

The Marlins are hopeful that Dietrich's skill set will make him part of their future after obtaining him from the Rays for Yunel Escobar during the Winter Meetings.

According to MLB.com, the former Georgia Tech All-American and Tampa Bay's second-round pick in 2010 ranks ninth on the Marlins' list of Top 20 prospects. He will most likely open the season at Double-A Jacksonville, where he could see action at shortstop, second base or third base.

Although Dietrich was primarily a shortstop growing up, he understands that his path to the big leagues may have to go through either second or third base.

The Marlins are turning the shortstop position over to Adeiny Hechavarria, acquired from the Blue Jays in November.

Having already switched organizations in recent weeks, Dietrich has no problems changing position.

In Tampa Bay's system, he moved up through the ranks as a shortstop. But around the All-Star break last year, he was promoted to Double-A, and part of the transition was shifting to second base.

"Shortstop, obviously, is second nature to me," said Dietrich, who lives near Cleveland. "My grandfather, Steve Demeter, was a big league third baseman, and he spent a lot of time in the Minors as a third baseman.

"I feel confident in all three positions. I know that my bat is going to play. I feel adequate at second and third, and shortstop has always been my position. Wherever I can help the ballclub, and help the team out the quickest, is fine with me."

From his grandfather, Dietrich learned the basics of baseball, and how to approach and respect the game.

"Some of my fondest memories are when my grandfather was managing the Erie SeaWolves," he said. "I was taking batting practice at second base, trying to hit the ball over the fence when I was around 6 or 7 years old. All the guys were cheering me on during batting practice. I've got a lot of memories."

In 1959 and 1960, Demeter played a total of 15 big league games with the Indians and Tigers. His biggest claim to fame is being traded from the Indians to the Tigers in 1960 in exchange for Norm Cash, who went on to become a standout for many years in Detroit.

As a Minor Leaguer, Demeter belted 272 home runs. After managing in the Minors, he became a scout, and he frequently took his grandson to Minor League ballparks.

"During his scouting career, I would go to games with him and hold the radar gun, and be so excited," Dietrich said. "It's funny, because I've actually played in some of the places where we had gone and scouted."

Having Dietrich in their system gives the Marlins a left-handed-hitting infielder with power.

In 2012, at Class A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery, he combined for a .279 average with 28 doubles, 10 triples, 14 home runs and 75 RBIs.

"I was really happy with the Tampa Bay organization," he said. "I knew they had some money tied up in prospects who had just got their careers started before mine, professionally. So I knew that it was really a waiting game with Tampa.

"But I was always confident in my abilities, and knew that I was going to be able to help the Rays or another big league team in the future."

The Marlins have remade their roster and compiled a number of prospects in recent trades.

Infield depth in the Minors is an area in which the organization is thin. Dietrich provides versatility and power, and he is close to being big league-ready.

"When I knew the Marlins wanted me, and I was traded to them, right away I saw that it was going to be a great opportunity to help out the club, whether it was at shortstop, second base or third base," he said. "I was extremely excited and eager to get going and meet the guys."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["prospect" ] }
{"content":["prospect" ] }