Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Basketball isn't the only sport they play

As the game of baseball continues to expand across the globe, except in the mind of Bud, (who just doesn't get it), we have another first. One more country has joined the list of nations represented in professional baseball in the states. Lithuania, one of the Baltic states, and not a Balkan one, has had their first player sign a professional contract to play minor league ball in the states:
For the first time in the history of Lithuanian Baseball, one of its own has signed a professional contract with an MLB squad. On July 9th Dovydas Neverauskas, a 16 year old pitcher from Vilnius, Lithuania, agreed to terms of a professional contract offered by the Pittsburgh Pirates, making him the first player in Lithuania's history to do so
What I like about this the most is the fact that Dovydas is an actual Lithuanian prospect. He's not someone who was born in Lithuania, then moved to the states or another baseball playing country. He's not a native-born Lithuanian who moved to the states to play high school ball. No, he's an actual Lithuanian, born and raised in that country.

The most important fact about that is that Lithuania has established enough of a baseball program to have prospects. And prospects who have actually signed professional contracts. It's a legitimate program, and a legitimate baseball-playing nation now. Lithuania is a small-ish country, but they are a legitimate international basketball force. Anyone remember the 2004 Olympics. If they put the same effort into baseball that they put into basketball, they will be winning major championships soon.

And it's not just a one-off signing:
Also receiving attention from several MLB Clubs was Edvardas Matusevicius, a hard-throwing RHP and outfielder who has also been invited to this year's MLB European Academy in Italy. Matusevicius has opted to pursue baseball and studies in the U.S., and will be attending high school at Islip High School in Long Island, New York this fall.
It's also interesting, at least to me, that he signed with the Pirates. The same team that recently signed two Indian pitchers. Even though that was something of a publicity stunt, Dovydas is a legitimate prospect. However, it's nice to see Pittsburgh looking outside the box for players. They aren't good, and haven't been for awhile. Anyplace where they can find quality prospects should be exploited.

Most teams have operations in Latin America, and many of them are developing programs in Asia now. But Pittsburgh, in the Baltics; Kansas City in South Africa; and Atlanta in the Atlantic and non-Latin Caribbean countries are making the effort to get out there and find players in new places. I think MLB should be doing much more to promote and advance the game on an international basis, but it isn't happening. Fortunately, some of the teams are stepping up and making the effort.

Good luck to Davydas. I can't wait to hear McCarver try to pronounce his name, and give us some inane story about Lithuania.


tHeMARksMiTh said...

Any sort of scouting report on the guy?

Ron Rollins said...

What I've been able to find says he has a fastball clocked at 85-86, with a curveball and changeup. He's over 6 foot, but skinny and 16.

I would think more of a project than a prospect, but he seems to have some tools. He's probably dominating his league and needs a higher level of competition to see what he can really do.