By César Augusto Márquez
Spring training is barely three weeks away, but some players are already taking to the field to hone their swings and bat flips. On Sunday, Robinson Canó, Javy Báez and Yadier Molina joined Edwin Díaz and Martín Maldonado for a softball game in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, for the benefit of Hurricane María victims. José Altuve, who has enjoyed one of the busiest and most rewarding winters in recent memory, received another gift in honor of his prodigious 2017 season. And Willson Contreras tried to make up for what he thought was an inoffensive boast.
Sugar vs. Machete All-Stars
Mariners closer Edwin “Sugar” Díaz and Angels Gold Glove catcher Martín “Machete” Maldonado held a charity softball game in the community ballpark of Jardines de Esperanza (Gardens of Hope) in Naguabo, one of the towns most devastated by María and where both stars were born.
Díaz’ Seattle teammate Robinson Canó, who played in the inaugural event last year, was a last-minute participant, while Yadier Molina showed up with one of his two older brothers, former major league catcher José Molina. Canó and Javy Báez both delighted the crowd with mammoth home runs. The money raised will help people in the area of Naguabo affected by María.
Baby Blue Jays
The sons of two legends who are forging their own paths in the majors met this weekend during the Toronto Blue Jays Winter Fest — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes “Yunito” Gurriel Jr.
Vlad is the oldest child of Vlad Sr., who is hoping that his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is confirmed this Wednesday. Lourdes Jr., who carries the nickname Yunito — a Cuban version of “Junior” — is the brother of Houston Astros first baseman Yulieski “Yuli” Gurriel and the son of legendary Cuban outfielder Lourdes Sr.
Besides partaking in the Winter Fest activities with the fans, Vlad Jr. and Yunito took time to bond at a Toronto Raptors game. How do you say hoops in Spanish? ¡Baloncesto!
Altuve’s crystal bat
José Altuve is everyone’s favorite player right now. It’s crazy how many awards he’s picked up this winter. The latest was a bat made from Swarovski crystals, a one-of-a-kind piece designed by the Colombian goldsmith Mr. Bling Colombia, who has created other artworks for athletes, including a Swarovski crystal ball made for Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar.
Willson Contreras put his foot in his mouth when he declared at the Cubs Convention a week ago that he planned to be a better catcher than Buster Posey and Yadier Molina, forgetting for the moment that at 25, he has barely two seasons of major league experience and has yet to earn a Gold Glove Award or All-Star selection.
Not surprisingly, his elders were quick to put him in his place. Molina — an eight-time All-Star with eight Gold Gloves and two World Series titles — posted on his Instagram account a picture of him, Posey and Salvador Pérez at the 2017 All-Star Game, saying, “Respect the ranks, ROOKIES! I’m here with those who have proven themselves to be the best.”
The original post has been taken down from Molina’s account. But Pérez — a five-time All-Star with four Gold Gloves and one World Series MVP award to his name — reposted it on his Instagram account, where it still lives, adding, “I support you, my brother, I’m learning from you.”
Contreras apologized — sort of — on a video posted by LasMayores.com, saying that it was all a misunderstanding and that he respected his fellow catchers.
“Every ballplayer wants to be the best at his position,” Contreras said in Spanish. “I didn’t say that I’m the best or that I’m better than them. I said that I want to be better than them.
“I admire them and respect them, and I learn a lot every time I play against them,” Contreras added.
Vizquel a global citizen
Omar Vizquel, a part-time artist and musician, loves adventures and exploring new worlds. The Chicago White Sox’s new Single-A manager took advantage of his last month of winter vacation by traveling to Peru to visit Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan city.
Vizquel, who is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year, will be busy this week when the Class of 2018 is announced. He will be traveling to Panama two days after the announcement for the opening of an exhibition featuring 40 of his artworks.
Happy Birthday, Ozzie
The first — and only — Latino manager to win a World Series turned 54 on Saturday. Oswaldo “Ozzie” Guillén, who this winter had been managing the Tiburones (Sharks) de La Guaira in the Venezuelan league until they were eliminated in the semifinals, left for Cuba, where he celebrated the start of a new trip around the sun in the company of family and friends ¡Feliz cumpleaños, Ozzie!
Featured Image: Edwin Diaz Instagram