In Colombia, the third largest country in South America, soccer has always dominated the sports scene. Today, while soccer remains the country’s most popular sport, baseball’s presence continues to steadily grow.
Throughout the history of Major League Baseball, fans have had the opportunity to watch 26 Colombian players take the field. In 1902, suiting up for the Philadelphia Athletics as both an infielder and outfielder, Lou Castro became the first ever Colombian-born major leaguer. He played one year in the majors, and his departure led to a 72-year gap of Colombians playing at the sport’s highest level. It wasn’t until 1974 that shortstop Orlando Ramirez would play for the California Angels.
Since then, infielders Orlando Cabrera, of the coastal city of Cartagena, and Edgar Renteria of Barranquilla are two of the more notable Colombians to have played in the big leagues. In 2004, as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Cabrera became a World Series champion. Renteria added two championships to his resume playing for the Florida Marlins in 1997 and the San Francisco Giants in 2010.
Continued interest and popularity in the sport are sure to produce more major league talent from this country in the future.
In 2020, Major League Baseball’s Opening Day rosters included eight players born in Colombia:
Jorge Alfaro (MIA)
Oscar Mercado (CLE)
José Quintana (CHC)
Harold Ramirez (MIA)
Donovan Solano (SFG)
Julio Teherán (LAA)
Gio Urshela (NYY)
Meibrys Viloria (KC)
The career trajectory of Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela resembles the growing Colombian presence in baseball. It starts off quietly with some promising signs, then suddenly -- “BAM!” -- it emerges in a bigger way and makes a major impression on both a team and the sport.
Urshela, a product of the scenic coastal city of Cartagena, is building an extensive catalog of highlight moments in this, his fifth MLB season. His smooth fielding and clutch bat embody the essence of the Colombian style of play. He is one of eight Colombians in the league in 2020, and as fans of the game, we hope there are more to come.