If you walk up Blue Jays Way towards the Rogers Centre, then you know that the ghosts of yesterday are everywhere. The names of Bautista, Price, Tulowitzki, Donaldson, Encarnación, and the rest of the 2015 25-man roster scream at you in blue. I’m being hyperbolic here and not exactly everyone on that roster has their names painted on the sidewalk. It’s just that every time I walk past that spot, it’s a loud reminder of the bat-flippin’ days. It’s the work of a local Toronto sidewalk artist, and the names haven’t faded from the concrete.
I call it a permanent 2015 stain.
As many of you know, I like to wake up early every morning and walk around the Rogers Centre concrete box and think baseball thoughts. And lately I can’t stop thinking about the future. I thought about how brilliant Zack Logue was on Saturday for the ‘Cats. I thought about Yennsy Diaz’s terrific outing on Sunday, too. I thought about Alejandro Kirk’s thick-ness in Lansing. And Hagen Danner’s power. I mean, I even thought about how I want a Kirby Snead shirt and how the ‘Cats should make one for this lefty reliever. I thought about the cool that is Kirby Snead. I thought about a lot of minor things.
It makes sense that I’m thinking about all of these things because last week minor league baseball kicked off the 2019 season. It is something that I look forward to as much as the MLB, minus the shitty hiccups with the MiLB TV app that I have been experiencing. Once most of those glitches were sort of resolved though, it was great to spend the weekend surfing from the Bisons to the ‘Cats to the ‘Nuts. I didn’t watch any Dunedin games because there was no link. It could’ve been the app though…I dunno.
After soaking in some minor league ball, I started to wonder what future names will be painted on some other sidewalk close to the Dome. Or maybe over top of the ghosts of 2015 past. As many of you prospect lovers know, these days it’s all about injecting the ‘large adult son’ content into the baseball veins. It’s time to gush over future hopeful Blue Jays in Buffalo, New Hampshire, Dunedin, Lansing, and soon Vancouver (once the Northwest League begins in the summer).
The minor-league affiliates are the bright side to the Blue Jays bad. The gate in Toronto is slow, the stadium is barren, and the state of the team is sad. Not even $5-dollar ‘Dugout Deals’ or $1-dollar hot dogs are bringing fans to the game. The Jays are crossing that bridge to the future and each goddamn step kind of hurts right now. But, the future is bright, so get those damn Ray Bans – or something like that.
Unfortunately, there was one name missing in all of my random minor-league thoughts. One player who didn’t set foot on some minor league grass. A player who our friend Jesse Goldberg-Strassler has referred to as ‘Vladdy the pitcher’. And that’s – Eric Pardinho.
As most of you already know, Pardinho is going to have to wait to get his chance to pitch in the Midwest League. The young Brazilian is out right now with soreness in his right elbow, which has delayed his debut in Michigan’s capital. Jesse is confident that he is going to be the ace of Lansing’s staff this season.
Now, if you don’t know who Pardinho is, the Jays inked him as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2017, tossing a lil $1.4-million bonus his way – not too bad at all. Nothing like a little cash-rules-everything-around MLB, especially considering the dire amount of money that most prospects make during the season.
Pardinho was born and raised in Bastos, a small city in São Paulo, which most Jays fans already know by now. Where Pardinho is from, the people love their different soccer clubs, sort of like how hosers love their hockey, eh? Baseball isn’t really a thing yet in Brazil and if you asked any Brazilian about Eric Pardinho, you would get a shoulder shrug reply. Not too many people in Brazil are thinking about Pardinho or any baseball prospect. They certainly wouldn’t want to wear a Kirby Snead shirt.
Baseball is not a part of Brazilian sport culture. It’s all soccer. Rivalries like Atlético-MG vs. Cruzeiro, Corinthians vs. Palmeiras, Flamengo vs. Vasco, or Grêmio vs. Internacional are similiar to the Leafs vs. Habs or Oilers vs. Flames on a Saturday night.
To put things into perspective: I reached out to a Brazilian friend of mine and asked him if he knew who Babe Ruth was and he told me that he didn’t. I asked him what he thought a ‘perfect game’ was and he said that he thinks it is a close game that ends in the ‘final minutes’. He thinks that a grand slam is an important game in the playoffs, which kind of makes sense – I guess. He doesn’t know what the World Series is and the only Brazilian baseball player that he knows is Eric Pardinho because I told him about the Jays’ prospect.
There are currently 14 Brazilian US-based professional baseball players (not including Pardinho). The most recognizable name from those players, of course, is ex-Jays catcher Yan Gomes, who is with Washington this year.
Gomes isn’t a household name in Brazil. He isn’t a celebrity. He’s not Neymar.
For many baseball fans in Canada, Brazil is now a country that has produced the second-best pitching prospect in the Jays’ system. The people of Brazil might not know that, but that’s forgivable. It’s definitely more forgivable than North Americans thinking that Brazilians speak Spanish.
Brazil’s new baseball son is a future arm that Mark Shapiro, Ross Atkins and Toronto’s executives are betting on to be a part of the Jays’ rotation alongside big Nate Pearson – the Jays’ top pitching prospect. Maybe one day he will have a Toronto sidewalk artist paint his name on the concrete. Maybe one day they will even spell his name in the sand of a famous Brazilian beach. I have no idea. And they probably won’t, but whatever.
I just really want Pardinho to get rolling this season. I hope that he isn’t going to be sidelined for too much longer. He is one prospect that I’m really excited to watch this year. He is one prospect that I really want to write a bunch of content about, too. He’s the new ‘large adult son’ that we all want to gush over. It’s great to have minor league ball back, but it will be even better when we can have eyes on Pardinho.