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Pangilinan Signs With Chi Sox
Deciding to seize the opportunity that is in front of him, Escalon High School Class of 2009 graduate Leighton Pangilinan is now a professional baseball player.

The 18-year-old signed a contract on Sunday, June 28 with the Chicago White Sox organization, after being drafted by the Sox earlier in the month. He is due to report today, July 1, to his new team, the Bristol White Sox in Bristol, Virginia. The Bristol squad is a Rookie league team, playing in the Appalachian League. They play their home games at the 2,000-seat DeVault Memorial Stadium and Pangilinan was drafted by the Major League's Chicago White Sox as a first baseman.

He was enjoying a quickly arranged 'going away' party put together by his parents, Dan and Kelly Pangilinan, at the local D'Boni's Pizza on Sunday afternoon.

The party came just a couple of hours after Pangilinan signed his name to his first professional contract.

"I was just full of energy when I got to do it," he said of signing on for what he hopes will be an eventual trip to the major leagues. "I was ecstatic.

"This is my dream, to try to get there."

A ballplayer ever since he can remember, Pangilinan has made his mark on a number of travel teams and helped propel the 2009 Escalon High Cougars to a 26-1 overall mark and an undefeated Trans-Valley League season. He also has played for the San Francisco Giants Scout Team and it was there and through Cen Cal baseball out of Oakdale that White Sox scout Adam Virchis starting taking notice of Pangilinan's abilities.

"I've always loved it," Pangilinan said of the game, adding that even though it was "a dream" to turn pro, it's not one he thought about a lot, feeling it was just that, a dream.

Now, he has a chance to make that dream a reality.

He has some specific goals for himself as he makes the transition from Escalon to Bristol.

"I will watch what I do, I don't want to make a mistake," he said. "I'll listen to everything they (coaches) say."

Pangilinan will be under the tutelage of hitting coach Jerry Hairston, a former major leaguer, at Bristol. He also takes with him many lessons learned on the Escalon and travel ball fields.

"At Escalon it was fun but we were also serious at the same time," he said.

Coach Greg Largent said he's proud to see Pangilinan take this next step in his career.

"He's matured tremendously as a person the last three years and now he will be surrounded by players just as good as he is," Largent said. "I think there's more in him that hasn't been tapped and I think he's going to take his game to the next level.

"By far he's the best hitter that has ever come through the halls of Escalon High School. We don't go 26-1 without him. There were a lot of cogs in the wheel, but he was one of the main ones."

Mom Kelly was the baseball player in the family, playing in Nebraska while in school because they didn't offer softball at the time. Dad Dan favored football and basketball, but served as assistant coach for some of his son's teams through the years. Both are extremely supportive ... and proud.

"This has been a dream of his," Dan said. "He's still got a long way to go."

But by working hard, the 6-2, 230-pound teen believes his chances for success are good.

His sweet stroke saw him compile a .467 batting average this season in league play, with 24 RBI, six doubles and six homers.

Mom Kelly said she was - appropriately enough - at a Cougar summer baseball game when she got word that he had been drafted in the 40th round.

"Everybody got all excited," she said of the Cougar fans in the stands watching the game when she shared the news. "I think I've been on the phone ever since."

Pangilinan did not have a graduation party, nor did he attend Sober Grad because he had a baseball tournament the following day. So Sunday's gathering at D'Boni's served as a kind of graduation-celebration-going away party.

Pangilinan will suit up quickly for the White Sox, arriving in Bristol on July 1 and getting a chance to play. They are even providing him with a new glove and bats.

Had he not opted to sign, Pangilinan said he would have attended Delta College and played baseball there for the Mustangs. But he figures if the chance is there, he's going to take it.

"I'm nervous but I'm really, really excited to go off and do something I love to do ... for a job," he said, grinning. "I'm just going to focus on baseball, try to get to the big leagues. It'll be tough, but I'm going to try my hardest."