BROOKSVILLE — Christian Arroyo's rise from a freshman role player on the Springstead High School varsity baseball team to a top prospect in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft has been meteoric.
The ascent has gained a great deal of attention, and last week the spotlight shined brightly when New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson was in attendance as Arroyo and the Hernando High Leopards faced Arroyo's former team.
Arroyo transferred from Springstead to Hernando prior to his sophomore year, and the Leopards have been to the state final four and a regional final the past two seasons, with a combined record of 44-17.
The standout senior shortstop — no relation to Cincinnati Reds pitcher and Hernando High alum Bronson Arroyo — has hit .363, scored 45 runs, batted in 30 runs and hit four home runs since he put on a Hernando uniform.
"I guess you would use this cliche, but he is very natural," Hernando coach Tim Sims said. "He has a Pete Rose-type work ethic."
Arroyo's on-field performance has resulted in numerous All-America, all-tournament and all-state honors.
His play garnered enough attention for Arroyo to try out for the 18-and-under Team USA squad last year. With limited expectations, he stood out, made both cuts and traveled with the team to South Korea last summer as USA entered the World Baseball Championships.
In South Korea, Arroyo won most valuable player honors as the team won America's first world title in any age division in 13 years with a 6-2 victory over Canada. In 13 games at shortstop, he hit .387 with 11 RBI while competing against some of the best players around the globe.
When he returned home, Arroyo assessed his future and chose to sign with the University of Florida, a program ranked No. 1 in the country at the time. Featured in a November article on GatorCountry.com, Arroyo is expected to be one of the Gators' top incoming players should he suit up next fall.
"It means the world to me," Arroyo said. "I've wanted to be a Florida Gator ever since I was a little boy. And now that it's a reality, I can't thank my family, friends, coaches and anyone else that has helped me become the ball player that I am today enough for everything they've done for me."
Now 6 feet 1 and 185 pounds, Arroyo is one of 721 prospects named by Big League Futures as likely players to be selected in this year's MLB draft. He was also one of 440 prospects highlighted last June by minorleagueball.com writer Matt Garrioch, who said Arroyo has a "quick bat" and is "polished."
MLBProspectGuide.com has Arroyo listed as the 136th-ranked prospect in the nation. Acting as an adviser to Arroyo and his family for the upcoming draft, sports agent Matt Brown was able to bring his top client, the 31-year-old Granderson, to Arroyo's game at Springstead.
A lot of players and fans recognized the all-star outfielder and were surprised by his presence, which came days before he was hit by a pitch and had his forearm broken during a Yankees spring training game.
One of those star-struck was Leopards ace pitcher Brandon Lawson, who has committed to play at the University of South Florida.
"He looked very familiar from (television), and as he got closer I recognized it was Curtis Granderson," Lawson said. "He talked to Christian, and then he took pictures with us. He's a very nice guy."
The last thing Arroyo expected was to see an elite player like Granderson taking a personal interest in him.
"It's was all a total surprise," Arroyo said. "I had no idea he was going to be there. We just spoke about the season and what was in store. He said to keep working hard and anything can happen. It was truly a remarkable experience."
Arroyo said he will decide later whether to attend Florida next year or turn pro. For now, he wants to focus on pushing Hernando as far as the team can go in his final prep campaign.
So far, Arroyo is doing his part.
Although the Leopards are only three games into the season with a 2-1 record, he's hitting .455 with six runs scored, four RBI and a home run.