By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STRASBURG -- Jose Bonilla Traverso came to the United States two years ago from Puerto Rico, but he had never seen country life until he arrived in Strasburg earlier this summer. Bonilla Traverso had lived in Florida the past two years, so while playing for the Strasburg Express this season he saw a deer for the first time, and he's quickly getting used to the area.
"It's very different," Bonilla Traverso said. "In Florida, I'm near the beach and the weather is like the same, and here it's more like ... different weather. It's more mountains. I like it here."
Bonilla Traverso has liked the Valley League and with good reason -- he's having a solid season for the Express.
Bonilla Traverso is hitting .288 (30-for-104) in 28 games. He's the leadoff hitter for the Express and he has five doubles, one triple, 10 RBI's and 16 runs scored for Strasburg.
"He's been at the top of our lineup all year, and he's a spark plug," Strasburg manager Ben Moore said. "He's probably one of the fastest players I've ever coached. Big time hustler in the outfield, during batting practice, during a game. He never wants a night off. You can't ask for any more from him."
Bonilla Traverso also has nine stolen bases this season, but he also has been caught stealing nine times. Moore said that they are working on 'harnessing his speed."
Playing baseball in Puerto Rico, Bonilla Traverso said it's different from playing in the U.S.
"In Puerto Rico there's a lot of aggressiveness," Bonilla Traverso said. "Here they play more tactical, more mental. .. I'm trying to be more mental, but also don't lose how to be aggressive. That's why I like being aggressive."
Bonilla Treverso said he's been playing since he was four or five, and his father and grandfather both played in Puerto Rico. Bonilla Treverso is from Aguada, Puerto Rico, which Bonilla Traverso said is a big surf area, although he said he doesn't surf.
Two years ago he left his home in Aguada, Puerto Rico to play for Elev8 Sports Academy for his senior year of High School. The academy is located in Del Ray Beach, Florida and he was coached by Luis Alicea.
"[Alicea], the hitting instructor taught me a lot about the mechanics," Bonilla Traverso said. "It helped a lot."
Bonilla Traverso played at Florida Atlantic University last year. The Owls finished 28-25 this past spring, including 14-16 in Conference USA.
Playing in 34 games, including 15 starts, Bonilla Traverso had six RBI's and five stolen bases. He said he really wanted to improve his hitting this summer, after struggling during his freshman season at FAU.
"I learned a lot of stuff. I got experience," Bonilla Traverso said. "They're really good coaches. I want to get better at hitting, because I know I can field, but I want to get better at my hitting. I've been working on my hitting. It's been doing good so far.
"I've been working on different mechanics this summer and it's been working for me so far."
Moore said that Bonilla Traverso has been a perfect fit for the team and the other players love him.
"First day from introduction and still now probably the best personality on the team," Moore said. "He's only been speaking English for a year, but it's amazing how much English he knows. It's still kind of broken, and the guys have fun with him and will make a little fun about that."
The Express are 15-16 record and sitting in sixth place. After a slow start, the Express have won nine of their last 12 games.
"We started with like two wins, after that we started to slow down, lose some games, but now we're back on track," Bonilla Traverso said. "We're going to make it to the playoffs and I knew we will. ...Everybody's starting to hit a lot. One through nine everybody swings. It's not like two batters here and there. Everybody swings, we're having good [at-bats] and that's what we need."
Bonilla Traverso wears the No. 4 in honor of his father's birthday, and wears No. 16 for Florida Atlantic in honor of his mom's birthday.
He said he talks to his parents every day, and while he misses them he knows this is where he needs to be to accomplish his ultimate dream -- playing in the Major League.
"It's like really tough, but I'm doing what I love and I got a dream," Bonilla Traverso said. "If that's the price I got to pay - not seeing my family - then I will."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd