On opening day at AT&T Park, the San Francisco Giants' new third baseman Angel Villalona won't run onto the field, sit in the dugout or get anywhere near Fog City. Sure, he landed a $2.1 million signing bonus last summer the second highest ever paid to an amateur baseball player but Villalona will stay on the club's minor league roster for at least the next two years. After all, he's only 16.
San Francisco beat out four other teams to sign the 6-ft. 2-in., 210-lb. teen from the Dominican Republic, who reportedly snubbed even higher offers because he got a better vibe from the Giants. In an exclusive interview with TIME, Villalona, who is the oldest of four siblings and the son of a machineworker and a homemaker, said he bought a nine-room house for his family, but he's holding off on a car until he gets his license. Now in spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., he spends his free time on his computer, listening to music, and talking with his roommate, who is also Dominican. Asked what he misses about home, he says, "Mi madre," whom he calls every day along with his novia.
Villalona may witness first hand one of the oddest milestones in baseball history. Fellow Giant Barry Bonds will enter this season needing just 22 home runs to break Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755. Bonds will probably hit that mark sometime in August. But after so many seasons of surliness and bad BALCO karma, will anybody cheer?