Happy Opening Day! Cheers to Aruba’s Own Xander Bogaerts on the Boston Red Sox….WAY TO GO!
On the weeks leading up to this opening day I suddenly became nostalgic remembering the 16 years I had spent working for the New York Mets as a ticket seller. What a great place to work! Not sure if I missed the the pre-season preparations which began every February with snow still covering the stadium grounds or the carnival-like atmosphere of those first Spring games in early April…..
Watching yet another snow fall cover the world from my window I sipped hot cocoa and prayed for summer or Aruba whichever came first. That and my memories got me thinking……do baseball players from Aruba ever make it to Major League Baseball? How important is the sport of baseball to the people of Aruba?
What I found was a wonderful piece of Aruba’s sports history….
Aruba has proudly given five player’s to Major League Baseball teams in the United States to date:
1) Gene Kingsale (b. Aug 20, 1976 Solito, Aruba)
Gene Kingsale made his Major League debut on September 3, 1996 on the Baltimore Orioles where he played as an switch-hitting Outfielder. He was signed as an amateur free agent with the Baltimore Orioles in 1993.
Teams: San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners from 1996-2003
International Teams: Netherlands National Team, World Cup of Baseball, 2004 Olympics Athens, Greece, World Basebell Classic 2006 & 2009.
After 2008, he has played for Neptunus Rotterdam in the DutchHoofdklasse, as well as being a pivotal member of the Dutch national team, which played in the Beijing Olympics.
2) Calvin Maduro (b. Sept 5, 1974 Santa Cruz, Aruba)
Calvin Maduro made his Major League debut on September 8, 1996 as a pitcher on the Philadelphia Phillies. He was signed as an amateur free agent with the Baltimore Orioles in 1991.
Teams: Philadelphia Phillies/Orioles 1996-2002. He played for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1996 to 1997 and for the Baltimore Orioles from 2000 to 2002. Maduro also played on the Netherlands Team at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and for the Dutch major league club HCAW.
3) Sidney Ponson (b. Nov 2, 1976 Noord, Aruba)
Sidney Ponson made his Major League debut on April 19, 1998 playing the position of pitcher on the Baltimore Orioles. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles as an amatuer free agent in 1993.
Teams: Baltimore Orioles/New York Yankees/Kansas City Royals/St. Louis Cardinals/San Francisco Giants 1998-2009. Sidney Ponson has a fastball that tops out at 95mph.
Aruba’s first 3 Major League players Gene Kingsale, Calvin Maduro, and Sidney Ponson were decorated with an Order of Orange-Nassau in the grade of Knight. The medal and honors given represent the Dutch Order of Chivalry. It is bestowed on those that have “earned special merits for society” and is quite a great honor to recieve.
4) Radhames Dykhoff (b. Sept 27, 1974 Paradera, Aruba)
Radhames Dykhoff made his Major League debut on June 7, 1998 playing the position of pitcher on the Baltimore Orioles. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles as an amatuer free agent in 1993.
Teams: Baltimore Orioles 1998.
5) Xander Bogaerts (b. Oct 1 1992, Oranjestad, Aruba)
Xander Bogaerts made his Major League debut on August 20, 2013 playing the position of shortstop/third base on the Baltimore Orioles. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles as an amatuer free agent in 2009.
Teams: Boston Red Sox 2013-2015. Playing in 2016
At a mere 23 he has a long, successful career ahead of him and we wish him well! Xander has won the gold medal after joining the Dutch National Team, the Silver Slugger Award as shortstop and was a finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award.
How does Major League Baseball go about scouting players in Aruba you’re probably asking at about time….by way of local Aruban Games played against teams from nearby islands that is…
It just so happens last week (end of March) a 3 game series was played in Aruba called the U16 Prospect Baseball Games.
We spoke with Ulisses Maduro, Sports Presenter at Hit 94 FM – Mega 88 FM Stereo in Aruba, who explained the following to us:
“These games are Games between the top prospects of the Island of Aruba and Curaçao. Today they played against eachother and Curaçao won the game 4-2. After 2nd of July 2016 some of them will be scouted by MLB organisations. They are in a project where the Best of Both islands will be scouted.”
And there you have it! Aruba is an island that has huge heart for professional and amateur baseball. The island is gifted with talented players that are reaching heights of Major League stardom in the United States and around the World in European Leagues as well as the Olympics.
Article by Christina Canzoneri