I am what is known as vertically challenged. I top the height chart at a smidge over 5-foot-2 and since I am incapable of wearing high heels I’m generally the smallest one in a room full of adults.
So it’s probably no big surprise that I have always been a fan of the little guy, not just figuratively but, in baseball, literally.
And this first month of the season has been a great one when it comes to big league debuts by those of slighter stature — Kansas City southpaw Tim Collins, Atlanta Braves outfielder Matt Young and Philadelphia Phillies infielder/outfielder Michael Martinez, among others.
Today I am pleased to lead off this week’s Diamonds in the Rough column with the debut of Los Angeles Angels second baseman Alexi Amarista, a Venezuelan-born youngster, just turned 22, who towers over me at … well, his “official” height is 5-foot-8 but my friend and terrific OC Register writer Bill Plunkett estimates it’s closer to 5-foot-5.
Looking at the amazing numbers he has put up consistently since making his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2007, Amarista brings to mind a clip my daughter and I used to enjoy back in the day when “Sesame Street” seemed to be in a continuous loop on our TV — Teeny Little Super Guy. The lyrics to the theme song went “you can’t tell a hero by his size, he’s just a teeny little super guy.” Seems to fit Amarista pretty well. …
Especially when you consider what this young man has been through in recent months. Back in November, his father was murdered by robbers in their native Venezuela. You can read more about the tragedy and the strength that Amarista has shown in this outstanding article by Plunkett: http://articles.ocregister.com/2011-04-29/news/29491867_1_alexi-amarista-murder-rate-venezuelan-winter-league. (Photo courtesy of OC Register as well)
2B, Los Angeles Angels
B/T: L/R H/W: 5-?/150 BORN: April 6, 1989
ACQUIRED: Signed as a free agent out of Venezuela in 2007
PROMOTED: Contract purchased from Triple-A Salt Lake April 26 when OF Reggie Willits was sent down.
DEBUT: April 26 in an 8-3 win against Oakland: The starting second baseman, he batted ninth and went 1-for-3 with three RBI, including a two-run double in his first big-league at-bat and a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
NOTES: As mentioned, don’t let the size fool you. Though he’s not going to be vying for the home run title, he packs quite a line drive punch in that physique. Amarista was hitting .455 with two homers and 16 RBI in his 14 games for the Bees prior to his callup and brought a career .320 average into 2011. The Angels’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2009 when he hit .319 with four homers, 49 RBI and 38 steals in his full-season debut at Class A Cedar Rapids, he added 39 doubles that summer. He hit .340 in his Dominican League debut in ’07, .328 in the Arizona League in ’08 and .309 between Advanced A Rancho Cucamonga, Double-A Arkansas and Salt Lake in 2010. He is also a fine defensive second baseman.