Cincinnati Reds History: First Slovakian Player Signed
While there has been an influx of foreign born players in Major League Baseball, Europe is still an untapped location. On this day in 2013, the Cincinnati Reds signed the first player from Slovakia, Jakub Izold.
Players from all over the world have been a part of Major League Baseball since the early days. While there are a number of players from Latin America, Japan, and even Australia, Europe is still a relatively untapped continent. Strangely, this was not always the case, with a number of early players coming from England and Ireland.
On this day in 2013, the Cincinnati Reds made a foray into the middle of the country, signing pitcher Jakub Izold to a minor league contract. Izold had been the top pitcher in the country during the 2009 European Junior Championship, notching a win over the Ukraine. He continued pitching in various international tournaments, and took part in the MLB European Academy in 2012.
Although his overall numbers may not have been much to look at, Izold still impressed the Reds enough to earn a contract. As a 19 year old, Izold was assigned to the Reds Arizona League team, but had his struggles. That year, he was 0-1 with an 8.04 ERA and a 1.979 WHiP. In 15.2 innings, he allowed 28 hits, but only three walks and Izold struck out 16 batters. It was certainly not a lost season.
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Izold showed enough potential where he came back for a second season. He once again pitched in the Arizona League, and showed some improvement. He pitched 21.2 innings, posting a 6.65 ERA and a 1.662 WHiP. However, his strikeout and walk numbers went in the wrong direction, as Izold walked eight batters while striking out twelve.
That would be the last year that he was a part of the Reds system. He is currently back in Europe, and spent last year with Draci Brno in the Extraliga. It was a homecoming of sorts, as he pitched for that team in 2013 before being signed by the Reds.
If Izold continues to pitch well in Europe, it may not be outside of the realm of possibility for another team to give him a chance. He is still only 23 years old, and as a lefty who could strikeout people out, he could earn another look in the minors.
Europe is still an untapped market for baseball, but as more leagues pop up there, more talent may come stateside. That was the case on this day in 2013, when the Cincinnati Reds made the first signing from Slovakia.