GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds outfield prospect Denis Phipps was 18 years old when he was signed by the organization out of the Dominican Republic in 2004. Remarkably, he had only been playing baseball for one year at the time because he grew up playing basketball as a point guard. His athletic idol was forward Dennis Rodman.
"I started baseball when I was 17," said Phipps, who is now 26. "In my hometown, everybody played baseball and I didn't."
That hometown is San Pedro de Macoris, which has been a factory for young talent for over a generation. Like many in that city, he was a shortstop when he first started playing.
"I tried out with the Cubs, and they said I should be in the outfield and could get better. It was based on my arm," Phipps said.
Last season at Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville, Phipps batted a combined .346 with 12 home runs and 64 RBIs. The Reds, who named him the organization's 2011 Minor League hitter of the year, added him to the 40-man roster over the winter.
This is Phipps' first Major League Spring Training.
"I'm trying to do whatever I can to make the team and learn what I can," Phipps said.