Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Two new firsts

In an effort that shows how the game is spreading internationally, more and more Europeans are making it into professional baseball in the states, joining the Latin and Asian players already there. While very few of them, mostly the Dutch, have made the majors, they are being given the opportunity to play in the minors. We can only hope they make it to the big's, and perform at a high level. That, more than anything else, will help baseball spread.

Two more European players have made it into the minors, each being the first from his country in many years. In the early years, when immigration was still going on at high rates, it wasn't unusual for a player to be born in another country, move to the states, and play major league baseball. Since WWII, this hasn't really happened with the Europeans all that much. But we have hope:

Then there's pitching prospect Alessandro Maestri, who, get this, is with a Major League organization -- the Cubs -- and is actually from Italy. Back in 2006, Maestri was signed by Bill Holmberg, who works for the Cubs and is the Italian National Team's pitching coach. Maestri was on the Italian team for the first rendition of the Classic, appearing in two games. He is the first Italian-born pitcher to be signed by a Major League team.

After he'd started out as a reliever, the Cubs moved the right-hander into the rotation last year for multiple purposes, to have him work on all of his pitches as
well as to see exactly what they had in the 23-year-old. He went 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA over 89 innings, getting shut down conservatively when he experienced some shoulder soreness.
There have been lots of hyphenated-Italians to play baseball, but I''m surprised to learn he is the first pitcher. I wouldn't have thought that at all.

Then, even better, is the fact that a player at a so-called "skill position" has made it:

The Kotlarka Prague baseball club recently announced that catcher Martin Cervenka has signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians. Korlarka competed in the second division baseball league in the Czech Republic last year.

Cervenka, just 17-years-old, is the first European prospect to sign a professional contract with the Indians organization and will continue to play for Korlarka this upcoming season. The promising backstop hit .214 in six games with the Tegola Titans in the Czech Republic’s top league a year ago.
Catching is hard at any level, but for a Czech player to have mastered the skills well enough to sign a pro contract means he must have some good skills.

A lot of people are complaining about the number of Latinos and Asians playing major league baseball right now. I'm sure they'll have the same complaint about the European players. Right?

I don't know why they have a problem with it. Unless they want baseball to be just a localized, American game, played by citizens, then they should be embracing the fact that more and more people around the world are good enough to play pro ball.

I don't know about other people, but I'm a Royals fan. We need all the help we can get. I don't care where they were born. I just want them to be good.

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