Ah, opening day. A harbinger of warmer days ahead. In these parts, Major League Baseball’s opening day really made us dream big as many of us awoke to freezing temperatures and snow outside.
While we anticipate warmer weather in the days ahead, our thoughts turn to baseball on the local diamonds throughout the state. As the snow recedes and fields dry, the boys of spring and summer will take to the fields with balls, bats, and gloves. At Mansfield Stadium in Bangor, plenty of action will once again take place culminating in the Senior League World Series, to be held this year August 10th through 16th. For those who may not be aware, Senior League is the 15 and 16 year old division of Little League Baseball, not to be confused with some old-timers league. In the first years of the event being held in Bangor, tournament director Mike Brooker, as well as other tourney staff, would have to clarify this on a regular basis.
If you have followed the first twelve World Series in Bangor closely, perhaps opening day took on a more significant meaning. With the click of the remote control, you could catch a glimpse of former Senior League World Series participants in the starting line-ups for major league ball clubs. In the match-up between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, twenty-one year old Xander Bogaerts was the Sox’ starting shortstop. On the other side, the starting second baseman for the Orioles was Jonathan Schoop. Bogaerts made his MLB debut on August 20th, 2013, while Schoop, 22, was also a late season call-up in 2013.
Bogaerts competed in the 2009 Senior League World Series for San Nicholas, Aruba, while Schoop played for Curacao in the 2008 World Series.
When Jose Reyes became a shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays it opened the door for Santiago de Veraguas Panama’s Ruben Tejada. Tejada, who competed in the 2005 SLWS, is currently the starting shortstop for the New York Mets and has been with the parent club since 2010.
Kolton Wong from Hilo Hawaii started at second base on opening day for the St. Louis Cardinals. Wong and Bogaerts last fall became the first Bangor SLWS alumni to play in a World Series. Wong played in Bangor in 2007, was originally drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 2008, went to play college baseball at the University of Hawaii before being redrafted, this time by the Cardinals in 2011.
In his fifth Major League season, Domonic Brown normally an outfielder, was the designated hitter for the Phillies at Texas on opening day. You may remember Brown as the tall, overpowering left-handed pitcher with the rubber arm, who led his Dade City, Florida team into the semi-finals in 2004. Brown, last summer became the second player from a Bangor world series to play in the Major League All-Star game.
In total, eleven players from Bangor Senior League World Series teams have played in the Major Leagues. 2002 was the inaugural season for the World Series being held in Bangor. Numerous others still have played or are playing at some level of professional baseball.
A truly remarkable story is that of Curacao’s Kenley Jansen. Jansen, who played in the 2003 SLWS, is the closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jansen was drafted as a catcher and came up through the minors as a catcher, before the 95-mph hard throwing right-hander was converted into a reliever. Jansen made his major league debut in 2010 with the Dodgers. Ironically, Jansen didn’t pitch at all in his time in Bangor.
Freddy Galvis of the Phillies and Jurickson Profar of the Rangers are both starting the season on the disabled list. Galvis, a middle infielder with the Phillies, expects to be back in action shortly and is in his third season in Philadelphia. His 2006 Falcon, Venezuela team won that year’s World Series. Profar was a teammate of Schoop’s on the 2008 SLWS runner-up squad. He is expected to miss the first 2-3 months of the season due to a torn muscle in his shoulder. The utility infielder made his Major League debut at the age of nineteen as a September call-up.
South Vineland, New Jersey’s Darren Ford played in the first Bangor SLWS game in 2002. The outfielder made his major league debut with the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and spent part of the 2011 campaign with the parent club. He is trying to earn his way back to the bigs and is currently with AAA Indianapolis.
Shairon Martis spent parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the Washington Nationals. Martis played on the 2002 SLWS championship team from Curacao and also made a return visit with his team in 2003. Martis is probably best known for the no-hitter he pitched in the 2006 World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands. Curacao is part of the Dutch Antilles. Martis has bounced around the minor leagues since 2009 before landing back in the majors, this time with the Minnesota Twins in 2013. Martis has landed overseas for the 2014 season, playing in Taiwan.
The first Bangor SLWS alumnus to make his major league debut was Jair Jurrjens from Curacao. Jurrjens helped lead the 2002 Curacao entry to the world championship. He made his first major league appearance as a starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers in August 2007 before being traded in the off-season to the Atlanta Braves. Jurrjens would spend five seasons with the Braves, making the National League All-Star team in 2011. Beset by injuries, Jair pitched only two games for the Baltimore Orioles in 2013. Currently a free agent, Jurrjens is recovering from major knee surgery, which he underwent in September of last year.
As you continue to watch professional baseball over the next several years, you are bound to continue to see names you recognize, names heard once in Bangor, Maine some years ago. As the months go by and August once again creeps upon us, we could once again be seeing the next major leaguer in our midst for that one week in August.