Dubon becomes 1st Honduran in MLB

Dubon becomes 1st Honduran in MLB

In many ways, the rise of Mauricio Dubon to the Major Leagues has been unusual.

The first is simple: No player in the Major Leagues has been born and raised in Honduras. On Sunday, the prospect of the Milwaukee Brewers became the first.

The rest is more complicated. It's a matter of perspectives and Dubon has had many.

Minor League baseball is a system marked by inequalities degrees and Dubon has experienced it from all sides. An unknown outsider who could hardly afford his own equipment. He has emerged on the other side and been forced to fall a bit and has been forced to fight for his promotion. Throughout that journey, he has seen what life is like for players with more fortune and others without any.

On Sunday, the Brewers called the 24-year-old shortstop for his major league debut.

"I'm lucky," he told The Associated Press during spring training.

It all started with an exceptional moment of good luck and a bold and difficult decision.

Unlike the international prospects of baseball, Dubon was not discovered by a scout. His path to the United States was initiated by a chaperone from a Christian mission group that was donating baseball equipment in Honduras. Dubon was 15 years old when he met Andy Ritchey, who was impressed by the young man's arm and speed. A few days after that first meeting, ready to start a new life with the Ritchey family in Sacramento, California.

That was the first stroke of luck for Dubon, but it also presented the biggest challenge. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I was in a foreign land, far from everything and everyone I knew. Although I knew a little English, the language was a problem. But missing was what made him cry every night.

Dubon told himself it would be worth it if it meant an opportunity to have a career in baseball. The Boston Red Sox made that dream come true when they selected him in the 26th round of the 2013 lottery.

Dubon turned 19 that summer and after signing his contract he played the campaign with the rookie level team in the Gulf League. The transition to professional baseball was not as jarring as for some teammates. The team housed their players at a hotel near their complex in Fort Myers, Florida, and Dubon saw many players fight the same yearnings he experienced when he moved to Sacramento.

"They had not been away from their parents until then," he said. "Arriving and passing jobs and all that is overwhelming."

The finances were also hard. Boston kept Dubon sheltered and fed, but he was on his own for everything else. Players in the Minor Leagues are responsible for their own team and buying gloves and bats can be difficult for players who sometimes earn $ 3,300 per season. Some players are fortunate enough to receive substantial signature bonuses that cover those costs. Others can receive help from their agents. Dubon did not have any of those things.

His older brother bought seven wooden bats, but at the beginning, Dubon hesitated to use them against pitchers who threw hard for fear of breaking one.

For the rest, he and his companions went to a Ross department store. Dubon remembers buying spikes for $ 13 and trying to make them last throughout the campaign.

"It's the kind of thing I had to do before I got to where I am now," Dubon said. "It's not good at all, but I was just trying to save and make my money last."

Dubon spent the first year working, batting .245, with six errors in 20 games. The following year was much better, hitting .320 in a shortened campaign that sent him to the 2015 campaign with hopes of playing regularly with the Class A Greenville.

That spring, Dubon met those who are now two of his best friends in baseball. The first was Rafael Devers, the Dominican slugger who had just signed for $ 1.5 million. The other was Cuban Yoan Moncada, who received $ 31.5 million from the Red Sox.

Dubon was important in the development of both, which now shine in the Majors. The Honduran was completely bilingual by then and was familiar with life in the United States. For Devers, Moncada and other Hispanic players, he was the translator. That helped in the locker room and especially outside.

Dubon, Devers, Moncada and three others rented an apartment together in Greenville for the 2015 campaign – despite the financial disparity, Dubon insisted on paying an equal share. Occasionally – and always on the sly – Devers or Moncada paid the bill at a restaurant and another expense, a gesture that helped others survive.

The following year, Boston changed Dubon to Milwaukee, where it continued to shine. He hit .343 in 27 games in Triple A before getting injured and missing the rest of the season.

A year later, he returned to Triple A, where he was hitting .307, with 14 homers. He has been on the Brewers' 40-man roster for the past two seasons, which meant an increase to at least $ 44,500 per year, the minimum in the Major Leagues.

He has not forgotten his roots in Honduras. He is a lucky celebrity when he returns and thinks that his promotion is helping to grow baseball there.

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