Former Southern pitcher De Leon signs, sent to rookie league

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A little more than a month ago, Jose De Leon was working to help Southern University reach the postseason as a junior pitcher for the Jaguars.

Now he’s enjoying his first taste of professional baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rookie-league affiliate in the Arizona League.

De Leon, selected by Los Angeles in the 24th round of the MLB draft, signed with the Dodgers last week and reported directly to the Dodgers’ spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz.

He expects to make his debut in the Arizona League sometime this week.

“I’m just waiting for the chance,” said De Leon, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-hander. “I’m looking forward to the chance they give me. I will just follow instructions and do what they tell me to. I’m their property now.”

De Leon said when he left his home in Isabela, Puerto Rico, to play for Southern three years ago, his goal was to pitch for the Jaguars through his junior season and then leave school to play pro ball.

He pitched well enough in college to realize that dream.

De Leon went 4-3 for Southern this past season, helping the Jaguars win the Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division. He struck out 73 batters in 82.1 innings and had a 3.28 ERA.

Each of his final two seasons at Southern, De Leon earned first-team All-SWAC recognition.

He said the transition into pro baseball has been a blur.

“I don’t even know what day today is,” he said. “When you’re in school, you’re waiting for the weekend. Now, every day is the same. But I’m having fun and enjoying it. I look forward to keeping it going.”

De Leon said he was back home in Puerto Rico with his father when he heard that he had been selected by the Dodgers.

“It was great to be taken by the team that broke the color barrier, having gone to school at an HBCU,” De Leon said. “It was kind of special to say I’m a Dodger.”

De Leon said he passes a poster commemorating “42,” the movie about Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier in major-league baseball, on his way into the Dodgers’ spring training facility.