Bayamon, Puerto Rico | The College of Staten Island will have a presence in the Empire Professional Baseball League as former CSI baseballer Willie Concepcion has signed with the Puerto Rican Islanders of the six-team pro organization. Concepcion was acquired via a trade by the Puerto Rican side just days before play commenced and has since started with the Islanders.
“I had a great opportunity to attend a five-day camp in Delaware sponsored by the Empire Professional Baseball League,” said Concepcion. “To make a long story short, all six teams were there and there were some open roster spots and contracts that each team was looking to fill, and I was drafted a couple of days in. I was very honored to be given that opportunity.”
It was a range of sweeping emotions for Concepcion, whose dream has always been to play professional baseball. He was actually drafted by the Plattsburgh Redbirds on the second day of the camp, but then he learned less than 24 hours later that he had been traded to the Islanders. That was music to Concepcion’s ears since he is Puerto Rican and has a lot of family there to support him.
“I was extremely happy because it was such a perfect match,” he said. “I was definitely excited when I was drafted by Plattsburgh and I was set to do whatever I had to do, but when I was told I was traded I was overwhelmed that they thought enough of me to trade for me. It makes me want to do everything I have to do to make the the team better.”
Concepcion was a late arrival for the Dolphins this past spring season, his first with the team. He appeared in only eight games, making two starts behind the plate. Concepcion went 2-for-9 at the dish boasting an on-base percentage of .364. Despite limited duty, he boasted a perfect fielding percentage behind the plate. Being a part of the 2018 championship unit prepared him well.
“I learned so much working with the guys at CSI,” he said. “I did come on a little later and the guys that were in front of me put in the work and they got the first chance with reps and I got beat out of a spot which was one-hundred percent fine with me. Even though I had never been a position like that before, it made me concentrate on being a good teammate and do well with the role I was given and at the end of the day, last semester at CSI was the best time I have had playing. Some people don’t like the thought of not starting, but being a bench player and having a good time and accepting that role made me a better player. It taught me to enjoy the game more, to see and understand the game more, and I can honestly say it was one of the most exciting times and one of the best teams I’ve ever been a part of.”
The Islanders opened their season on June 13 against the New York Bucks, recently completing their five-game set with them. Concepcion got his first start early behind the plate and is enjoying the season so far. They will face off for a six-game set against the New Hampshire Wild tomorrow. Teams in the EPBL play a total of 50 games from now until mid-August, followed by playoffs.
Like his stay on CSI, Concepcion knows that no matter what his role is, he plans to do it to the best of his ability, using this experience as an education and for a future surrounded by the sport he loves.
“My goal has always been to play pro baseball, and I would play anywhere given the opportunity,” said Concepcion. “I was never an all-star, I never had the big accolades, so for me there has never been a lot of support or a lot of people pushing me to play at this level, but it is something I have always wanted to do. I was given this chance and I am simply going to enjoy it because I have fulfilled my goal. Everything after this is a plus for me. I am going to learn as much as I can and continue to enjoy the game and if I get to go further it will just be a bonus to this dream I had.”