By Edgardo Avelar
In his early teens, Javier Orozco had visions of one day taking to the diamond and turning double plays for Los Cañeros de Los Mochis of the Mexican baseball league.
Seven years after abandoning the infield for the penalty area, the 22-year-old "Chuletita" is the career scoring leader in the CONCACAF Champions League with 20 goals in 19 games and about to make his first appearance for the Mexican national team.
"For Javier Chuletita Orozco, beyond simply playing for Cruz Azul, the tournament has been a great platform," said former Mexican national team hero and now CONCACAF consultant Enrique Borja. "Scoring goals has made his coach see him as a reliable player and he is now a starter in the Champions League and the local league.
"Now he has also been named to the national team. I think it is very important and the players are taking notice. They realize that the tournament is a great showcase. It also allows the players to gain rhythm, allows a team to come together and as the games are on TV, the tournament gains more and more interest."
Orozco was born into a soccer family. His father, Luis Antonio, played professionally for Mexican second-division sides Tecoman and Irapuato during the 1980s, and his brother Luis Alberto played for Cruz Azul and Morelia before landing at Los Xolozcuintles de Tijuana in the second division.
"Chuletita" made his decision at 15 to leave baseball and test his fortune in professional soccer by joining Cruz Azul and beginning his path to becoming one of Mexico's top goal scorers.
The nickname "Chuletita" is in its third generation. His father earned the moniker "Chuleta" when he was six-years-old, told by his father to "vete por las chuletas" -- a Mexican saying that translates roughly to "go get the money."
The label stuck and has been passed down through the family - attached in the diminutive form to its latest, and now most famous, namesake.
Orozco didn't have a particular baseball idol, but he always wanted to one day wear the jersey of his hometown Los Cañeros de Los Mochis. However as a soccer player he always admired his brother along with goalkeeper Jorge Campos, idol of many in Mexican soccer.
With the demands of the CONCACAF Champions League adding to the Mexican league schedule, most Mexican teams liberally use players from their relatively deep rosters, like Orozco, for the confederation competition.
While playing in only eight league matches during the 2008-2009 season, the then 20-year-old Orozco appeared in seven games in the inaugural Champions League, including making his debut with a three-goal performance in a 6-0 rout of Hankook Verdes of Belize.
He has scored three goals or more in a game four times in the Champions League, twice helping Cruz Azul to the finals the past two years.
"Yes, I've been able to play more in CONCACAF, and fortunately I have been able to score those goals, but everything is thanks to God, to my family that always supports me, so I need to thank them," Orozco said. "Now, of course, I am playing more in the league and I hope we can also achieve something there.
"I think we can fight for important things in the season and go to the Club World Cup, which is our top goal."
Called up to the Mexican national team for the first time the same night that he scored four goals against Real Salt Lake on August 25 in the Champions League, Orozco is expected to make his debut for El Tri against Ecuador on Saturday in Guadalajara.
His call-up and chance to spend time with the European-based players of the squad has reaffirmed his desire to be successful.
"I want to succeed in Europe," he said. "It's a goal and I need to work to achieve it. Being called up to the national team is a dream come true and it motivates me to increase my efforts and be able to be there playing in the qualifying matches and to be able to be considered for the World Cup in Brazil.
"They're dreams and goals, but with hard work I know I can reach them."