Shortstops from Dominican becoming tradition with Twins

 

FOX Sports North is presenting a special series on the Twins in the Dominican Republic. The second episode debuts Wednesday, May 7 after the Twins-Indians game, and is on the Twins’ shortstops from the Dominican, past and present.

Pedro Florimon’s father was a pitcher in the Texas Rangers’ system, so naturally he wanted his son to pitch, too.

Florimon had other ideas.

"He wanted me to pitch," Florimon said. "I don’t like to pitch."

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Instead of taking the mound, Florimon initially found himself at second base while growing up in La Romana, Dominican Republic. By the time he was 11, though, Florimon shifted a bit in the infield and transitioned to shortstop. That position is what ultimately led him to the majors leagues, where he now plays for the Minnesota Twins.

Now, Florimon is just one of a handful of Dominican Republic natives in the Twins organization who play shortstop. They’re following in the footsteps of Cristian Guzman, who held down that position for six years in Minnesota and even earned a trip to the All-Star Game in 2001.

The slick-fielding Florimon has never met Guzman, who is nine years his senior, but remembers watching him play back in the Dominican. It’s a nation that has become a baseball hotbed in recent years. For the Twins, it’s been the place to find talented shortstops.

"I think because there’s not too much to do in the Dominican, just play baseball," said Florimon, who originally signed with Baltimore before the Twins acquired him. "I think that’s the reason we focus so much on what we’re going to do."

Florimon isn’t the Twins’ only Dominican-born shortstop currently on the 25-man roster. Danny Santana, who made his major-league debut Monday against Cleveland, also hails from the Dominican Republic. Santana signed with Minnesota in 2007 and worked his way through the minor-league ranks.

The speedy 23-year-old shortstop didn’t have much money growing up. He hoped that baseball would be a way to support himself and his family.

"My life there was a poor kid, or middle class, I wasn’t so poor because my mom and dad have always worked to maintain us," said Santana, who grew up in Monte Plata, D.R. "Now things changed with me because now I’m the caretaker for them, I have to support them because I am the middle son."

There’s one other Dominican-born shortstop in the Twins organization hoping to follow in the footsteps of Guzman, Florimon and Santana and reach the big leagues. That would be Jorge Polanco, a 20-year-old shortstop currently playing for High-A Fort Myers. Polanco is in his fifth season of minor-league ball with Minnesota.

Like the shortstops that have come before him, Polanco didn’t have the fanciest equipment as a kid in the Dominican, but he made the most out of what he did have.

"As a kid I played in a league, in a small league called Our Kings, that as equipment we had gloves, but not very good ones, ball but old balls, aluminum bats, old too but you always played and happy to have it because that’s what we had," Polanco said.

Four shortstops from four different cities in one baseball-crazed country. Three have already lived their dream of playing in the majors and have done so with the Minnesota Twins. One more hopes to join that group soon and become the next Dominican shortstop to wear a Twins uniform.

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