Baseball season has begun.
For fans, it is an almost magical time. All things are new. Your Baltimore Orioles lost 115 games last year and finished 61 games out of first place (How does that happen?). There is hope for this year.
Spring hopes eternal, and hope springs eternal.
With the season’s start, come the intricacies of the game that are like no other. The names, the stats, the oddities – all of it makes a baseball fan’s love affair with the game beyond those of fans of other sports.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, coming off the hangover of losing the World Series the past two seasons, crushed a record 8 home runs in their opening day win over Arizona.
Reigning NL MVP, Christian Yelich blasted home runs in the first four games of the season, tying the MLB record.
Toronto pitcher Elvis Luciano, from the Dominican Republic, of course, became the first Major League player to be born in this century. The 19-year-old was born on Feb. 15, 2000. Now, I feel old. He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out Tigers star Miguel Cabrera, and after the game told the media that Cabrera was his favorite player when he was 12. Just a babe, hoping to be a Babe Ruth.
Minnesota catcher, Williams Astudillo went 2 for 2 on Sunday, raising his career batting average to .368 over his first 100 plate appearances. That is the highest average in MLB history for 100 plate appearances, edging out Hall of Famer Ty Cobb’s .366 mark.
In case you were wondering, his name ASTUDILLO means A STUD in English. Not really, I made that up. But it should.
In case you were truly wondering, Astudillo is from Venezuela. Aside from being one of the only good things Venezuelans have to talk about these days, he is also one of the large number of MLB players who were born outside of the U.S.
251 of the 882 players on opening day rosters were born in countries other than America, or 28.5 percent. 102 of these were born in the Dominican Republic and 68 from Venezuela. Other countries represented this year: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Japan, Canada, Curacao, South Korea, Colombia, Aruba, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Taiwan and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates have the most foreign-born players with 14 of the 25 men on the roster not born on our shores.
What was once America’s “national pastime” has truly become an international game, with some of the game’s greatest players coming from other nations.
And aren’t we glad they have.
*Find more sports stats and stories in my new book, The Average Joe's Super Sports Almanac.