‘I’m dreaming right now’: WBC helping new Marlins second baseman feel at home in Miami
Luis Arraez isn’t just enjoying the winning ride he’s been on for over a week with Team Venezuela.
Arraez, the 25-year-old new Miami Marlins second baseman, has also been getting comfortable in his new professional digs at loanDepot park.
“I’m dreaming. Right now, I’m dreaming,” Arraez said before starting again for Venezuela in its World Baseball Classic quarterfinal game on Saturday night against the United States. “I’ve been pinching myself. Am I here? Am I here? Yes. I’m enjoying this a lot.”
Coming off winning the American League batting title in 2022, Arraez is one of the Marlins’ key offseason acquisitions they hope will result in significantly more victories this season and potential contention for the postseason in the near future.
Arraez was traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Marlins on Jan. 20 for his Venezuela teammate Pablo Lopez and prospects Jose Salas and Byron Chourio.
“I have represented Venezuela since I was a little boy. I have great memories,” Arraez said. “Most of the time, I was a champion when I played as a little child. I think that and I hope that we are going to achieve our goal in this tournament.”
Once Arraez is done trying to bring a WBC championship to his native country, he will return to Jupiter to finish preparing for his first season with the Marlins where he will join an infield that includes third baseman Jean Segura, Joey Wendle and potentially recently-acquired Jose Iglesias playing shortstop, and Garrett Cooper and potentially newly-acquired Yuli Gurriel at first base.
While Marlins manager Skip Schumaker has said he wants Arraez to get his reps at second base, his experience playing first base facilitated him to get ample playing time on a talented Venezuela roster.
Arraez started at first once again on Saturday as he did in three of the previous four WBC games for Venezuela.
Arraez hadn’t had a great tournament statistically entering Saturday, batting 2 for 13 with a double and two walks. But he delivered early in the game for his home country when belted two home runs - first with a two-run, 377-foot blast to right field in the bottom of the first inning, and later with a 351-foot homer just inside the right field foul pole in the seventh.
Arraez couldn’t have felt more at home on Saturday with droves of his fellow Venezuelans making noise and filling the ballpark he will now call home starting on March 30 when the Marlins open the regular season against the New York Mets.
He also headed into Saturday night’s game hoping to back up Venezuela starting pitcher Martin Perez, the veteran lefthander for the Texas Rangers who started against Team USA.
Arraez said Perez, his former teammate during his rookie season (2019) in Minnesota, was one of the people who most helped him when he was just a teenager trying to make it to the major leagues.
“When I made it to the Majors, (Perez) was a teammate and he asked me, ‘Do you have a place to live?’” Arraez said. “I told him, ‘No, I’m in the hotel.’ And he said, ‘Give me one week and you can come to my house.’
“Martín was always there for me. He supported me. Nelson the same. Nelson Cruz supported me. I admire him. But Martín, I’m playing with him here and I thank him for his support. I have to thank God that I’m playing on a team with him.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ According to an ESPN report, former Marlins pitcher and 1997 World Series champion Livan Hernandez will throw the ceremonial first pitch on Sunday when Cuba plays in the WBC semifinals.
Hernandez, 48, pitched 17 seasons in the majors, but is remembered for his performances as a rookie during that championship season including two wins in the World Series against Cleveland and a pivotal Game 6 win over the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series.
▪ Former Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto caught his third game for Team USA so far in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday. Realmuto was 3 for 5 with a double and two RBI in his first two starts.
▪ Team USA manager Mark DeRosa didn’t mind the fact Saturday’s game felt more like a road game despite being played within the U.S. DeRosa, who played in Venezuela in the offseason in 1999, said he developed a great appreciation for the passion of Hispanic baseball players and their fans.
“It gave me a better understanding of the passion of the Latin American ball player, how hard it is for them to come over at 16, 17 years old and be dropped off,” DeRosa said. “I know things have changed now. It’s gotten way better. But at that time, to be dropped off in Florida or Arizona and have to fight to eat. I felt that when I was over there and it was guys like Bobby Abreu, Álex González, Omar Daal, guys who kind of helped me out for my two, three months over there, and I was super appreciative of it.”