Almost immediately, it was obvious to some that 16-year-old José Altuve was different.
“Sometimes, you just have a feel about a guy,” Al Pedrique said. “With others, you can see it.”
The year was 2007, and Pedrique was one of the Astros' main talent evaluators in Venezuela. In the years since, he has held a variety of jobs in baseball, most recently as third-base coach for the A’s the last two seasons.
Altuve stood out for reasons that had nothing to do with baseball. He made sure guys got to English classes on time, led drills on the field and organized informal extra practices.
He also led by example as the guy who worked the hardest, pushed himself the most and revealed a burning desire to be great. The Astros had twice turned him away from their Venezuelan academy, but Altuve kept showing up and getting put into games. While every scout believed Altuve’s bat speed and instincts were special, they were reluctant to sign a 5-foot-5 infielder.
Day by day, Pedrique became convinced the kid had a chance and talked his bosses into a $15,000 signing bonus. When Altuve’s family pushed for a bit more, Altuve stopped the conversation.