Almonte Is Just Happy For The Opportunity
MILWAUKEE – Utility player Erick Almonte took some time before the team’s home opener on Monday to reflect upon his unlikely journey to make the Brewers’ big league roster.
The 33-year-old native of the Domincan Republic took the humble route.
“Eight years since I’ve played in the big leagues and now I just feel like I’m part of the team,” said Almonte. “Make the team out of spring training, had a good spring training, and now I’m just happy to be here. I’m trying to help this team to win.”
When you stick with baseball despite an eight-year drought between major league appearances, you have to be humble.
In his first major league start in the outfield this past Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds, Almonte blasted his first home run as a Major League ballplayer eight years to the day he hit his last one, as a member of the New York Yankees organization.
“That was eight years ago, hopefully I don’t have to wait eight more to hit the next one,” said Almonte.
Almonte made the Brewers after a successful spring training that saw him lead the team in both hits and at bats while going 32-for-77 and compiling a .416 batting average this spring.
Now that the regular season has begun, Almonte figures to be a pinch hitter and play around the diamond primarily as a corner infielder and corner outfielder, but also could play middle infield in a pinch as well.
He came up through the ranks as a shortstop and briefly spelled Derek Jeter as an injury replacement in New York.
He fell out of favor in the Yankees organization and spent the next eight years trying to get back to the “big show” with varying degrees of success.
“Eight years is a long time,” said Almonte. “(Some) people don’t even play a year, just to be able to just keep playing and now make it back to the big leagues, it’s really special for me and my family.
“It’s been a long road. I’ve been playing in Japan, independent ball, minor leagues through the whole season. Now I’m back in the big leagues, and there’s nothing better than that. I’m just excited to be here.”
He even had offers to play professionally in the Mexican summer leagues for more money that he was making in the minors, but declined the overtures to keep alive his dream of making it back to the majors.
He made slow but steady progress making his way back up to the highest level of the minor leagues, but he wasn’t sure he’d ever make it back to “the bigs.”
“To be honest, no,” said Almonte. “I played a couple years in the Tigers minor league system. Then to here and Nashville for our Triple-A team. I never thought about it. I just went out and did my business, just play my game, and now I’m here.”
Despite being part of the Brewers farm system for both the 2009 and 2010 seasons, yesterday was actually Almonte’s first time he’s ever been to the city of the team that employs him.
“This is my first time in Milwaukee, first time at Miller Park,” said Almonte. “I hear a lot about the fans here. They love it, it’s a full house almost every day. Guys love it here.”
Now, about that four-game losing streak to open the season…
“Hopefully we can turn the page and start winning some ball games,” said Almonte.