Steve Tinoco has certainly earned a spot on the Sioux Falls Canaries baseball team this summer. Tinoco's minor league journey is a bit different from the rest of his teammates. The Birds signed him four days before all players began reporting for camp. Even on short notice, Tinoco arrived ready to contribute for Sioux Falls.

"It is always a process going through Spring Training and everything. It's always in the back of your mind if you are going to make the team or not. But you can't really let that affect you. You just have to go through every single day, giving your best effort, hustling, and having good at-bats. Hopefully, the coach will see that carry on throughout the season," shares Tinoco.

Tinoco did indeed make an early impression on his coaches and teammates. In the first game of the season, Tinoco blasted a three-run home run in the fourth inning that ultimately boosted his confidence and helped the Canaries win 5-4 over Sioux City on Opening Day.

"It was really big. I was pretty upset after I got released this past season and everything from the Rays. Being on the baseball field again and hitting a home run the first game of the season was really cool honestly. It was a lot of fun because it was my first time I've done that during any season or any level like that. It was just fun and glad to be on the field again."

The Birds have inserted Tinoco into lead-off position, and he is hitting .248 with two home runs, 32 hits, 20 runs, and 12 RBIs. He prides himself off of hustling, hard work, and making his presence known on the baseball diamond night in and night out.

"You want a presence to have people notice you to make sure you do have that confidence in yourself and in the team," adds Tinoco.

Not only is it great baseball advice, but it's practical for any athlete.

Before joining the Canaries, Tinoco's journey started at Long Beach State. After playing collegiately, the Tampa Bay Rays called his name in the 34th round of the Major League Baseball draft in 2010. At the age of 22 in his first year of minor league baseball, he played for Hudson Valley (New York and Pennsylvania League) in Class A.  With a year under his belt in the minors, he started at the Class A level again in 2011 with Bowling Green (Midwest League). In 2012, Tinoco moved up, and played High-A ball with Charlotte (Florida State League). Charlotte then added Tinoco to the roster again last summer. Fourteen games into the 2013 season, Double-A Montgomery (Southern League) called him up to play. Unfortunately, that was the end of Tinoco's minor league career. However, by signing with the Canaries, he's proving he is not giving up his dream of playing professional baseball.

"Playing hard every single day because you never know when that opportunity is going to present itself. Work hard every single day in practice and be ready."

Both Long Beach State and Tampa Bay have taught him how to handle adversity in baseball and in life.

"I believe I was mentally strong enough to overcome some of the things people possibly wouldn't be thinking about too much and stressing out about. I was able to carry that over to not only in baseball, but in life itself. It's really benefited me throughout my years of playing baseball and I'm fortunate to have that."

The Canaries are part of the American Association and do not have an MLB affiliate, but at the same time, Tinoco says it is fun playing independent baseball in Sioux Falls this summer.

"I've learned that we have a great group of guys here. We just need to give ourselves a chance to win and stay in this ballgame. You know, we fight until the end. We don't give up at all. We play until the last out because anything can happen in this league and we have a lot of group of guys. Pitchers, position players, and everyone does their job."

The Canaries open a three-game series with Gary tonight at the Birdcage. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. Over the weekend, Sioux Falls swept St. Paul to move to 17-25 on the season.

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