MILWAUKEE -- Gilbert Lara attended his first Major League Baseball game on Monday. The Brewers hope it's the first of many.
Lara, the 16-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic who signed a record-breaking contract earlier this month, visited Miller Park for the first time and took a round of batting practice. It was general manager Doug Melvin's first look at a player in whom the Brewers have invested $3.1 million, nearly four times more than any other international signee in franchise history.
"Impact bat," Melvin said. "He's 16 years old, coming in here and hitting balls into the second deck. The last round, he said, 'I'm going to go to right field,' and he started hitting line drives to right field."
Zack Minasian, the Brewers' pro scouting director, and special assistant Craig Counsell were among the club officials who looked at Lara in January, when the Brewers emerged as clear favorites to formally land him at the opening of the international signing period on July 2.
Lara was the fourth-best prospect available per MLB.com's rankings.
Because of his age, Lara will not be eligible for the Dominican Summer League until next season, but Melvin suggested that he may be advanced enough to skip that level entirely. The Brewers will make that determination after evaluating him in their instructional leagues -- in Arizona this fall, followed by a similar program in the Dominican Republic over the winter.
Lara was wide-eyed at Miller Park.
"I feel really good to be sitting in a big league stadium with big league players," he said, with Eduardo Brizuela, the team's director of Latin American operations, serving as translator.
Lara wants to stay at shortstop, though some have speculated that as his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame continues to fill out, he could wind up at third base. Melvin compared his frame with younger versions of Alex Rodriguez, Alex Rios and Juan Gonzalez.
Lara said that he models his game after Rodriguez's.
"He's a very humble young boy," Brizuela said. "He carries himself very well. He comes from a good family, and his trainer, Jaime Ramos, is one of the big agents down in the Dominican Republic. He's a guy that has trained him very well and has shown him how important family is and how you work hard to get where you want to be."
That process formally began on Monday.
"I'm hiding a little bit of my emotion," Lara said. "I'm really happy to be here right now, really excited to be here."
Before Lara, the richest international bonuses in Brewers history went to shortstop Franly Mallen and outfielder Nicolas Pierre, each of whom signed for $800,000 last year. Before that the record was the $750,000, given to pitcher Rolando Pascual in 2005 during a period in which the Brewers closed their Latin American academy and focused on signing fewer but higher-profile players.