Jurickson Profar hails from the small but vibrant island of Curaçao, which you can access by plane, boat or its famous moving pontoon bridge. She has a total population of about 150,000 people — close to a sixth of the size of San Francisco — smattered across a 38x5-mile landmass. The nation takes care of its residents, too, boasting the highest standards of living in the Caribbean, as well as offering state-funded education to the children of an island with three official languages.
Despite the nation’s obsession with soccer, the people of Curaçao also possess an undying love for baseball. Their infields may be rockier and a little less flat, but the kids of Curaçao flock to them despite their cosmetic downsides. Perhaps it’s the quick eyes and hands needed to play on uneven surfaces that have given young fielders from the neighborhoods of Curaçao an edge on their peers.
Profar was one of these kids, learning from a young age to field grounders that popped like pinballs across bumpy fields. When playing a game as a kid, Profar was smacked in the face by one of those stray grounders, lost a tooth, and was rushed to the hospital. He returned to his position in the field a few days later, only to find his tooth waiting for him.
In addition to baseball, as a kid, Profar took his fast feet to track and field as well as his nation’s favorite sport, soccer. (He’s a Real Madrid fan, in case you were wondering.) He also began his switch-hitting path when he was sixteen — his natural side his his right.
It’s all the extra work, love and missing teeth that spurred Profar — a pitcher at the time — and his Curaçao teammates to take home the trophy in the 2004 Little League World Series. They returned in 2005, but unfortunately weren’t able to repeat their victory. Plenty of professional teams wanted to sign him him as a pitcher, but it was the Texas Rangers who wanted his talent in the infield, where Profar preferred to stay.
In 2012, Profar was quoted as saying that his beloved grandmother, Victoria, hadn’t been able to come see him play in America, as she is terrified of planes. Later that season, Profar was called up to the majors, the first player born in 1993 to do so. He didn’t waste his moment. In his first at bat for the Rangers, he crushed a 388-foot bomb. In his second, he doubled.
We hope Victoria has been able to come watch her grandson play in the time since then!
The baseball apple doesn’t fall far from the baseball tree — Profar has a younger brother named Juremi, also a Little League star, who signed with the Rangers at 16 back in 2012. He is still in the Rangers minor league organization, but has yet to make the majors.
After 2013, the Rangers traded Ian Kinsler, opening up a starting slot for Profar, but things don’t always go according to plan. In this case, Profar landed on the 60-day DL due to his shoulder. He returned, only to re-injure the shoulder and miss the rest of the season. It was clear he’d need surgery, and it was bad enough to put him out for the entirety of the 2015 season. It wasn’t until a Rougned Odor suspension in early 2016 that another shot opened up for him in the majors, and it took until 2018 before he finally played a full MLB season, at age 25 — and a pretty good one too, including 20 homers and nearly 3 fWAR.
Not to be held back, Profar was named the 2018 Richard Durrett Hardest Working Man Award winner, just a few months before he was acquired by the A’s. What’s not to love about a guy who answers “blueberry muffins” when you ask him his favorite flavor of cupcake? And has a smile like that? It’s a pretty awesome smile for a pretty awesome guy.