As a ninth-grader, Jorge Piedra spent time at the house of Kevin Stromsborg, a teammate at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High. Many times he would find himself hanging out with some of Kevin's older brother Ryan's friends, who were baseball players at USC. Geoff Jenkins, Gabe Alvarez and Jacques Jones were among the many Trojans Piedra met, and as a result, Piedra knew what he wanted to do after he finished high school.
"They would come over and talk about the games and everything at USC," Piedra said. "It just stuck in my mind. I was like, 'Man, I want to play for USC.' "
As a senior, Piedra's dream came true when USC offered him a baseball scholarship, but as he was about to head to college two years ago, the Dodgers came calling. Their offer of a $100,000 signing bonus to the undrafted free agent was ultimately worth more than the chance to become a Trojan, according to Piedra.
"I told myself that there wasn't a bad decision," said Piedra, 20. "Either way you go, you're going to be fine."
Piedra's choice looked like the right one last year, when he hit .383 for the Dodgers' rookie league club in Great Falls and won the Guy Wellman Award for the organization's rookie of the year in 1998. He was ranked as the second-best prospect in the Pioneer League.
Piedra, a center fielder, reached base in 13 of his first 15 games at Vero Beach this year. He had a .288 average with 13 runs scored through Sunday as Vero Beach's leadoff hitter. He also hit .300 in eight games with Class-A San Bernardino this season.