When Ulloa bats, everybody is watching
The Camden County Tech slugger has put up big numbers. "He's legit," says one opposing coach.
One way to measure Winston Ulloa's impact at the plate is by statistics: hits, home runs, batting average.
Another way is by silence: the still anticipation that settles around the field when the Camden County Tech catcher digs in with his cleats in the batter's box.
"Everybody stops when this kid comes to bat," said Barry Adamson, Camden County Tech's athletic director. "The track team, everybody else who is around the field. They all stop to watch him hit."
Ulloa is the most accomplished player in Camden County Tech history. He holds school career records for hits (100), home runs (11), and batting average (.467).
He also is the rare Camden County Tech athlete who commands unqualified respect among other programs in the Olympic Conference, and around South Jersey.
"The kid has power," Camden Catholic baseball coach Bob Moffett said. "He's legit. He hit a home run off us the other day on a pitch that must have been eight inches off the ground. He hit a bomb."
Ulloa's home run against Camden Catholic Wednesday afternoon was the 100th hit of his career. He is 24 for 45 this season (.533 average), with three home runs and 16 RBIs, according to Camden County Tech coach Barry Galasso.
"He would have so many more home runs if he didn't play in our field," Galasso said. "It must be 500 feet to center. He hit one against Bishop Eustace the other day that must have been 400 feet and the kid caught it against the fence in left-center.
"I was talking to [Bishop Eustace coach Sam Tropiano] after the game and he was like, 'That thing would have been 10 rows deep in Citizens Bank Park.' "
Ulloa said he was especially proud to crack a home run for his 100th hit, and especially happy that a Camden Catholic reserve player retrieved the baseball for him from behind the fence.
"To have it be a home run, you can't beat that," Ulloa said.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Ulloa has lived in Clementon since the age of 1. He resides with his father, Cesar, and brother, Wilson, a sophomore at Camden County Tech and a good player in his own right. The brothers' mother died in 2000.
Ulloa burst on the South Jersey baseball scene last spring, when he set an area record with a .719 average (41 for 57). He dispelled notions that he had fattened his statistics against weaker competition by collecting 18 hits in eight games against tournament-bound teams, and by his performance in his one at-bat as a member of the Olympic-Colonial team in the annual Carpenter Cup.
Sent to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the last inning of the team's only game, Ulloa drove a 3-2 pitch over the fence at the University of Pennsylvania field.
"I think it was still going up when it went over the fence," Olympic-Colonial manager Joe Hartmann said. "What swing mechanics this kid has."
The 6-foot, 200-pound Ulloa is in the welding program at Camden County Tech ("He's got a helmet on all day," Galasso said) but hopes to continue his baseball career after graduation, perhaps at a county college or perhaps with a professional team. He plans to attend a draft showcase in Miami on May 27 and hopes to be selected in the June 3 draft.
"My goal is to play professional baseball," Ulloa said yesterday during an interview at the Gloucester Township school.
For now, Ulloa's high school career is down to his team's final three games, scheduled for next week, and probably another berth on his conference's Carpenter Cup team.
Galasso said he would miss Ulloa's hitting, defense and leadership. But the coach might miss the quiet air of expectation that precedes every at-bat even more.
"I'm a fan of hitting, too," Galasso said. "Everybody gets quiet when this kid comes to the plate. They're all waiting to see something, and he usually comes through."