Rienzo vs. Gomes - photo courtesy of Youtube
There’s just more and more to talk about with respect to baseball in Brazil and Brazilians in baseball. The sport is growing in leaps and bounds both in the country, and with the guys that are coming out of there.
No where has it been more front and center than with the budding rivalry between Cleveland Indians super-utility player Yan Gomes, and Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Andre Rienzo. They were battery mates for Barry Larkin’s Brazilian national team in the World Baseball Classic qualifying round last year, when they upset the hugely favored Panamanian team in Panama. Now, they are playing for American League Central division rivals, and in the case of Gomes is jockeying for a spot in the playoffs. Who could have predicted things would have played out for both of these guys like this?
Then there’s Paulo Orlando, the veteran minor league outfielder who got another shot with the Triple A Omaha Stormchasers (Kansas City Royals organization) this season after coming back from injury. He took that opportunity and just helped Omaha win the Pacific Coast League Championship last night.
Coming right behind Orlando is Leonardo Reginatto, who had an incredible first full Single A season in the Tampa Bay organization. Reginatto hit .325 with a .780 OPS, and was equally remarkable in the field, playing second base, short stop, third base, left field and centerfield for the Bowling Green Hot Rods.
There are other Brazilians who are beginning to make their mark in MLB organizations. Pitcher Rafael Moreno had a great season in the Dominican Summer League for the Baltimore Orioles, going 7-2 with a 1.23 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 14 starts. Moreno also had 63 strikeouts to 16 walks in 80.2 innings pitched. By the way, Moreno is only 18 years old.
Felipe Talos did well in his second season with the Seattle Mariners Venezuelan Summer League team, hitting .266 with a .759 OPS in 44 games, mostly in the outfield. Fellow Mariner farmhand Thyago Vieira had a solid season at Single A Everett, going 4-5 with a 3.84 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 13 games started. Lucas Rojo put together another solid season for the Phillies’ Venezuelan Summer League squad, hitting .260 in 181 at bats with a .793 OPS (including 10 doubles, 2 triples and 7 home runs).
All of this pro baseball experience has allowed Brazil to field some fairly veteran teams in international competition recently. Take, for instance, the Brazilian national squad that is in Chile this week for the South American Baseball Championships. At least five of the players on that team play or have played in U.S. pro organizations.
Meanwhile, the CBBS-affiliated Nikkey clubs have enjoyed a resurgence of interest and talent in their ranks. These teams, and the tournaments they participate in, have attracted more attention from MLB teams and sponsorship from local and foreign businesses. For example, the Los Angeles Dodgers are now sponsoring the annual João Nakaie Club Champions Cup tournaments this month for the U12 to U15 age groups. Not surprising since Bob Engle, who is now the Director of International Scouting for the Dodgers, held the same position for the Mariners for many years, and also had Seattle sponsor one of the annual CBBS youth tournaments.
Speaking of recent CBBS tournaments, back in July the powerhouse Nippon Blue Jays won the 17th Annual Brazil Baseball Club U12 category. Nippon Blue Jays catcher Thales Iamamura was voted MVP of the tournament and had 6 stolen bases.
In August, Atibaia beat Marilia to win the 67th Annual Brazilian Baseball Championships in the adult category. The championships featured former minor leaguers Jean Tome (Atibaia) and Fabio Murakami (Marilia). Pitcher Lucas Tadakoro of Atibaia was voted MVP of the championship.
This past weekend, Guarulhos won the U15 edition of the João Nakaie tournament, with its pitcher Leonardo Villas Boas Oliveira taking home the MVP and Best Pitcher awards while hitting .778.
Now over to the independent leagues, which have been growing in size and interest as well. Last month the Liga São Paulo de Beisebol (LSPB) played its final championship games in front of 732 fans at Estadio Mie Nishe in São Paulo. I’m not 100% certain, but I am guessing that is the largest crowd to ever watch a LSPB game, and the league is only 2 years old! The aptly named Underdogs took home the championship that day. The game was also broadcast online by STI Esportes, and last week the LSPB introduced a course to teach anyone interested how to use a baseball statistic mobile app. called Game Changer, so it’s great to see how technology is moving the game forward in Brazil. Speaking of which, if you haven’t liked the LSPB on their Facebook page, you should do so as they have really loaded it up with great news and information about the league.
Over in the Liga Paulista de Beisebol, Piracicaba is well positioned at the top of the standings as the league wraps up its regular season and goes into playoff mode. Again, you should like them on Facebook if you haven’t already done so.
In the south of Brazil, the Liga Curitibana de Beisebol is now in its 7th round, with Sushiyama on top of the standings. Great information about the league, including the recent announcement that the city of Curitiba will be upgrading the municipal baseball stadium, can be found on their Facebook page.
Last but not least, the Liga Gaucha de Beisebol (LGB) wrapped up its season last Sunday with a win by Farrapos over Ivoti Phoenix. Ivoti had been the champion of the Rio Grande do Sul state baseball championship the previous two seasons, but this season belonged to Farrapos, one of the founding teams of the LGB. Although the LGB does not have its own Facebook page or website, you can visit the Farrapos Facebook page or Twitter feed to read more about it.