It resembled a movie scene. Cubs pitching prospect James Pugliese toed the rubber, eyeing down one of baseball's most feared sluggers.
In the batter's box, Manny Ramirez, who has 555 major-league home runs to his name, stared down the 19-year-old right-hander, awaiting the pitch.
It was the first great challenge of Pugliese's baseball career, and he was mentally prepared.
"I looked at him as any other batter," said Pugliese. "It's obviously a great experience, I've never faced anybody that big. He's one of the best right-handed hitters of all time."
Pugliese followed the scouting report, attacking the 12-time All-Star with inside pitches. He forced Ramirez into a groundout. Pugliese kept a cool head and sharp mental approach in matching up with Ramirez.
"I wasn't overreacting, trying to do too much," the Hamilton, New Jersey native said. "I was just getting an out."
Pugliese, who was selected by the Cubs in the 18th round of the 2011 draft, was a standout at Steinert (NJ) High School before playing with Mercer County Community College for one season.
Pugliese's success over Ramirez was a minor, yet meaningful triumph in his plan for success in the minor leagues. It was a reward for hard work he put in.
Ever since Pugliese arrived in the Cubs' Mesa, Arizona camp, he has devoted extra time to studying scouting reports and working in the weight room.
"You have to take every opportunity to make it, do everything you can," Pugliese said. "You can't take time off, you've got to do everything you can to get to the big leagues.
Pugliese is approaching each day with visions of his future, which he hopes holds a successful major-league career. He uses that as motivation to maximize each moment.
"I'm doing everything I can to make it, I'm not here to waste my time or mess around and take it for granted," Pugliese said. "I'm the last to leave, lifting, doing some extra work. I just don't want to look back at this time right here with regrets when I'm older. I'm doing everything I can now and seeing where it takes me."
When the Cubs' spring training camp broke at the end of March, Pugliese was disappointed to learn he would stay in Mesa, rather than joining a minor-league team. However, he did not dwell on it; instead, using it as fuel to improve as a player.
"It makes me want to work even harder, trying to get to (Low-A) Peoria, if not then wait till June 16 when Boise breaks," said Pugliese.
Pugliese posted a 2-2 record with a 4.62 ERA in Arizona Fall League, and has settled in with the Cubs' extended spring training squad. Now, he's ready to move on to the next level.
"It has been good experience, but I'm ready to go," he said. "Whatever role they need me, I'm ready to play."