DENVER — Eduardo Escobar was summoned by teammate Max Scherzer to stand next to him in the Mets clubhouse pregame on Thursday, hours before Pete Alonso walked it off against the Cardinals to complete their 10th series win of the year. While Scherzer and Escobar stood in the center of the clubhouse, the remainder of Mets players sat quietly in chairs at their respective lockers.
Scherzer, reading off a white piece of paper, recited a speech and congratulated Escobar for becoming the 10th Venezuelan player to reach 10 years of service time in Major League Baseball. Overall, Escobar on Friday became the 1,705th player to play 10 years, out of the roughly 20,000 to have played the game at the highest level, meaning only 8.5% of players have eclipsed the decade mark in the big leagues.
“I feel really happy because this is a dream that every player wants to reach,” Escobar said, through interpreter Alan Suriel, on Saturday at Coors Field. “Once you do things the right way and you’re humble and you treat the game right, you’re able to get what you want out of it.”
Escobar, 33, stood off to the side while Scherzer both celebrated and razzed him, mentioning that the infielder has a terrible fear of cats and a man-crush on Brian Dozier. Teammates whooped and hollered for the third baseman’s many major-league achievements, including becoming one of only four hitters in MLB history to record a season with at least 30 homers, 20 doubles and 10 triples during his All-Star year for the Diamondbacks in 2019.
Scherzer presented Escobar with a champagne bottle signed by his teammates, which Escobar lifted in the air and said, in English, a few words of gratitude. Afterwards, Mets players all donned black T-shirts with Escobar’s face etched onto the fabric, with the words “Proud Of You Man” written below his picture, as they traveled to Denver to begin their six-game road trip.
“I was surprised,” Escobar said of his reaction to the clubhouse celebration. “I was proud that they did that for me. It goes to show the quality of the character of the guys that are in this clubhouse. But I was very happy that they did it for me.”
On Friday in Denver, after the Mets’ series opener against the Rockies was postponed due to snow, Escobar once again took the team to his favorite restaurant, Fogo de Chao. Escobar also took the Mets to the Brazilian steakhouse before Opening Day in Washington. The third baseman said he received a video, which made him cry, from the CEO and various presidents of Fogo de Chao congratulating him for 10 years in the majors. Fogo de Chao also donated $10,000 to Escobar’s charity.
Escobar’s family and friends also contributed to a special video to celebrate the occasion. Everyone from his mother, his brothers, his uncles, a Venezuelan singer, school kids from his hometown in La Pica, Venezuela, former teammates and other current players made an appearance in the video to share a few words and honor the third baseman.
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But perhaps no one is more proud of Escobar than his mother, who used to hide his baseball equipment when he was younger because she wanted him to study more in school. But Escobar, who grew up in extreme poverty raised by his single mother, promised his mom that he would become a professional baseball player so she wouldn’t have to clean people’s houses and work again in her life.
Growing up, Escobar used to play everything from pitcher, catcher and center field. It wasn’t until a scout from the White Sox told Escobar, when he was 12 or 13 years old, that if he wanted to make it as a pro, he needed to learn how to play shortstop. A handful of years later, as a 17-year-old in 2006 in Caracas, Venezuela, Escobar was signed by the White Sox as a shortstop for $25,000. He used that money to renovate his mother’s house, then he took his friends to the mall and bought them shoes, clothes and whatever else they wanted.
“It was special for me,” Escobar said. “A lot of people didn’t believe me and a lot of friends helped me a lot because I come from a poor family. But at the end of the day, no matter what I’m going through in my life, because I had this dream, the dream was to come play baseball.
“I had good moments in my career, but the most important thing is to come with the same energy every day and respect my team, respect my teammates and do the best in the field. I know I’m not perfect. Sometimes I make mistakes. But it’s human. Nobody is perfect in life. Only one perfect is God. The most important thing is working every day you have the opportunity. It’s why I love this game, it’s why I respect everybody, because it’s what I wanted as a kid.”
In his career, Escobar has 140 home runs, 545 RBI, 224 doubles, 39 triples, 313 walks, 1,029 hits and a 15.2 fWAR. And, as Scherzer jokingly pointed out, Escobar has 21 stolen bases and 15 caught stealing, so the third baseman needs to improve his speed on the basepaths. For the Mets in 2022, Escobar enjoyed an early hot start but has since struggled at the plate. To that, Escobar said he is working hard every day and he trusts that the results — or as he put it, his good moments — will come.
Escobar is keeping the baseball dynasty alive within his family. His son, 16-year-old son Diego Gonzalez, signed as a second baseman with the Diamondbacks in January. For that reason and others, Escobar said he would absolutely love to remain in baseball either as a coach, or perhaps a manager, once he retires as a player. But that moment won’t be anytime soon, as Escobar knows he still has plenty of major-league production left in the tank.
“If I have the opportunity to coach, I will do it,” Escobar said. “I love baseball.”
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