There have been a number of strange journeys to the big leagues recently, like John Axford’s journey from cell phone salesman to big league closer, or Mariners rookie Steve Delabar’s six month journey from school teacher to big league pitcher. The Phillies have their own unlikely major leaguer in the form of utility player Michael Martinez. He went from a short lived professional basketball career, to being a police officer in his Dominican Republic hometown before being discovered with little more than the local police league keeping him active. Now he is on the Phillies team that just got through winning 102 games in the 2011 regular season. In the outstanding story below, from Geoff Morrow who you can follow on twitter @patriotnews_gmo, the amazing story of Martinez’ path to the majors is told by those who were a part of making it happen and the player himself.
When Florida Marlins reliever Leo Nunez had his true identity of Juan Carlos Oviedo, the age and identity fraud issues surrounding many Dominican baseball prospects was thrown back into the spotlight. In this outstanding read, Miami Herald columnist Frances Robles travels to the Dominican Republic and talks to people on all sides of the issue. Former Los Angeles Angels signee Edgar Arias talks about how he became Cesar Miguel de los Santos. Juan Carlos Paniagua talks about how his $1.6 million contract with the New York Yankees was voided when he was caught on the wrong side of Major League Baseball’s screening process. Finally, Luis Coronado, who Oviedo says helped him become Leo Nunez, talks about how rampant identity change was prior to major league baseball’s crackdown. It’s an absolutely phenomenal read by Robles who you can follow on twitter @RoblesHerald.
Fraud still rampant among Dominican baseball prospects — MiamiHerald.com
Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting one time San Francisco Giants prospect Angel Villalona who was charged with murder and served jail time in the Dominican Republic before reaching a settlement with the victim’s family, and then having the charges against him dropped, may soon be back in the organization. Villalona, who is still just 21 years old was a one time top 10 prospect in the organization before his legal trouble that began in 2009. He also sued the Giants for breach of contract while his murder charges played out. Villalona batted .267 with 11 Doubles, 9 Home Runs and 42 RBI’s for High-A San Jose as a 19 year old in 2009. One hurdle to clear before he returns is a $5 million lawsuit he filed against the Giants claiming they wrongfully kept him on the inactive list. Read more about Villalona’s legal troubles and his anticipated return to baseball in the story link below.
UPDATE: Villalona has dropped his $5 Million lawsuit against the Giants. You can read about that HERE
One of my favorite players growing up was Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez. I used to marvel at his defense and he wasn’t a bad hitter either posting a .288 lifetime batting average during his 18 year career. Now a days Fernandez is raising money through his Tony Fernandez Foundation to help under privileged kids in the Dominican Republic grow through sport. Among their efforts is the construction of the Tony Fernandez City Of Hope complex near his birthplace of San Pedro de Macoris. In the interview below, Fernandez talks about his foundation, his big league career, and what he’s been up to since retiring in 2001.