C.J. Ebarb was a member of the College of Southern Nevada baseball team that won the junior college national title in 2003, and he also played a season for UNLV in 2004.
The 26-year-old catcher returned to Las Vegas this week to play for the 51s, who called him up from Single-A Dunedin (Fla.).
“I was definitely excited when the Blue Jays told me I was going to come up here for the rest of the season,” Ebarb said Friday before the 51s’ 5-4 win over Round Rock at Cashman Field. “It’s good to get back to Vegas, because I haven’t been here for four years, especially being in Triple A. It’s a good thing.”
A 41st-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2006, Ebarb played sparingly in rookie ball and Single A in parts of his four seasons as a pro before earning his first promotion to Triple A.
He hit .203 with two homers and nine RBIs in 25 games this season for Dunedin and is batting .234 in 152 professional games overall.
“Pro ball’s a different beast,” said Ebarb, who hit .280 in 55 games for CSN and .301 in 39 games for UNLV. “If they have money invested in other guys, they’re going to play. I was a low-round draft pick they didn’t have to pay much to get. I’ve actually been lucky to stay in it this far.”
Ebarb will serve as an emergency backup catcher and bullpen catcher for Las Vegas.
“He’s a great kid, he works hard, and he has a great attitude,” 51s manager Mike Basso said. “He’s very good at calling the game, is solid behind the plate and swings the bat pretty good. He’s a positive influence to have on the team.”
Ebarb grew up in Texas but has several family members living in Las Vegas, including his cousin Rich Ebarb, the former Coyotes pitching coach.
“I keep up with Rich a lot, and I’m actually staying with him,” C.J. Ebarb said. “He was a big reason why I came down here (for college), plus the facilities (at CSN) and coach Tim Chambers.
“I loved my year (at CSN) and probably should’ve stayed two. As far as getting into pro ball faster, it would’ve been beneficial to me to stay at CSN for another year.”
While Ebarb had high praise for UNLV coach Buddy Gouldsmith and fond memories of winning the Mountain West Conference title and playing in an NCAA regional for the Rebels, he saw action mostly as a designated hitter.
Ebarb also has struggled to earn playing time in the pros.
He was placed on the disabled list Friday, when utilityman Joe Inglett returned to Las Vegas from Toronto, and will bide his time catching in the bullpen for the 51s until an opportunity arises to play.
“I’m here to back up in case of injury, or maybe they’ll need a big bat off the bench to come in and get a pinch hit,” Ebarb said. “If I get in, I’ll try to make an impact. If not, it’s been a good experience, and I’ll see them back in spring training next year.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.LAS VEGAS 5
ROUND ROCK 4
KEY: Joe Inglett’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning was the difference for the 51s, who withstood two solo homers by the Express in the ninth.
NEXT: 51s (LHP Fabio Castro) at Salt Lake (RHP Mike MacDonald), 6:05 p.m. today, KBAD-AM (790)