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Sports

August 17, 2010

The wizard

LOWELL — Any player can thrill fans with a home run. But very few have the ability to draw a crowd simply by taking infield practice.

Red Sox prospect Jose Iglesias is one of those players.

"Just watch him play the infield in warmups and you'll see what kind of player he is," said his former roommate and fellow Red Sox farmhand David Renfroe. "It's amazing. This guy is going to be a truly great player."

Iglesias was compared to 13-time Golden Glover Ozzie Smith by Sports Illustrated before he played his first minor league game. It may seem a bit premature, up until the moment the 20-year-old snags his first play.

Iglesias sent the crowd at LeLacheur Park into hysterics over the weekend when, while moving towards second base, he lunged backwards to snag the ball after it hit the pitchers mound and changed directions. Without panic, he flipped a dart to first to nail the runner.

"Jose is one of the best infield prospects in all of baseball," said Lowell Spinners manager Bruce Crabbe. "He's amazing, and that's why (the Red Sox organization) gave him what we gave him. He is outstanding."

Having now played just 53 professional games, Iglesias has earned the title of "The Next Great Red Sox Shortstop," joining the likes of former top prospects Nomar Garciaparra and Hanley Ramirez. But lofty expectations are nothing new for him.

"I don't put a thought into it," said Iglesias. "I don't feel the pressure of my name or what number prospect I am. The only thing I know is playing baseball, and that is what I love to do."

Iglesias defected from Cuba last year in Canada during the World Junior Championships. That then set off a bidding war between a number of teams, including the Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

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