Royals’ Orlando becomes first Brazilian in World Series
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Paulo Orlando had returned home to Brazil last offseason when he flipped on the television to catch the news, and saw this strange report about the first Brazilian to play in the NFL.
The Royals outfielder was immediately intrigued.
Then he was downright stunned.
Not only did he learn that Cairo Santos was carving out quite a career in a decidedly non-Brazilian sport, just like Orlando was trying to do, he was doing it with the Kansas City Chiefs – the team that plays just across the parking lot from his own team.
”I said, `Whoa! He plays in Kansas City!” Orlando recalled. ”Then I went to winter ball in Venezuela thinking, `Wow, if I can make the team, I can meet him one day – two Brazilian guys in the same city and representing their sports.’ How crazy is that?”
About as crazy as this: One year after Santos became the first Brazilian to play in the NFL, Orlando became the first from his country to play in the World Series.
He entered Tuesday night’s opener against the New York Mets in the eighth inning, and had a single in the 12th, before the Royals finally persevered for a 5-4 victory in 14 innings.
Santos and Orlando aren’t the only sports stars in Kansas City, either. Paulo Nagamura is one of the best players on Sporting Kansas City, which just qualified for the Major League Soccer playoffs.
Not bad for a city with a Brazilian population of roughly 4,000 people.
”It’s pretty amazing, when you think about it,” Santos told The Associated Press. ”It’s great that we have this opportunity to represent our country in this way.”
Santos and Orlando met for the first time a couple months ago, and along with Nagamura have followed each other’s careers through social media. But with the way their seasons overlap, they haven’t been able to spend a whole lot of time getting to know each other.
Not that it matters. When they did meet, Santos and Orlando slipped casually into Portuguese, a rare opportunity for both of them to speak their native language.
”It’s really rare to see a Brazilian player playing baseball, and American football, too,” said Marco Rabello, who along with fellow Brazilian native Christian Maciel opened the ”Taste of Brazil” restaurant and shop in the City Market section of Kansas City.
Santos wandered in not long ago. Nagamura stops by a couple times a month.
”I contacted Paulo Orlando through Facebook, and I met his wife when she came from Brazil a couple months ago,” said Rabello, a former professional volleyball player who came to the U.S. for college. ”For me, it’s awesome to have three professional players.”
With three very different stories in three entirely different sports.
Nagamura has the least far-fetched, considering soccer is easily the most popular sport in Brazil. He came up through his hometown club in Sao Paulo, spent time with Arsenal’s system in the English Premier League, and for the past decades has played for MLS clubs.
He was traded to Sporting KC in 2012, helping the club win the 2013 league championship.
Santos also played soccer growing up, but started booting field goals when the Florida high school he was attending as an exchange student was desperate for a kicker. He parlayed that into a scholarship to Tulane, then won the Chiefs’ kicking job in training camp last year.
A couple of weeks ago, Santos kicked a franchise-record seven field goals – two over 50 yards – in a loss to Cincinnati. He was one field goal shy of matching the NFL record.
As for Orlando, he also played soccer as a child, but was introduced to baseball by a family friend with Japanese roots. He was ultimately discovered by a White Sox scout impressed by his speed on the base paths, and was traded to the Royals in 2008.
After toiling in the minors, he made Kansas City’s opening day roster this season.
”Soccer, probably when I was a child, was my first love,” Orlando said. ”I wanted to play it professionally. I just thought about soccer. But baseball came into my life, and to each their own sport. I wanted to be a professional and baseball gave me everything I have right now.”
Orlando became the third Brazilian-born player to reach the major leagues, following in the footsteps of Indians catcher Yan Gomes and Marlins pitcher Andre Rienzo.
But he’s the first to have made it into a World Series game.
”I just trusted in what I could do. When they put me on the 40-man roster, I knew I had a shot to make the team, and I just tried to show them what I could do,” Orlando said. ”Now, I’m just glad to be here, that the Royals gave me an opportunity to play baseball.”