Photo: BolaVIP retrieved
At 21, Ronald Acuña Jr. is the Atlanta Braves’ left fielder and, in only two seasons at the MLB, he’s made quite the mark, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2018, the only Venezuelan to achieve this after Ozzie Guillén, 33 years ago.
Word is, he could be the MLB’s most well-rounded player. During his second season, Acuña Jr. has batted 40 home runs and stolen at least 30 bases. He’s the youngest player to attain this combination in MLB history.
He’s also from La Sabana, on the coast of Vargas, Venezuela.
The Ballplayers’ Coast
Once you arrive at La Sabana’s Bolívar Square, a two-and-a-half hour drive from Caracas, the first thing you notice hanging from the walls and fences of its streets are the names and portraits of the town’s ballplayers.
At least seven MLB players, so far, have been born in La Sabana, two of Ronald’s cousins among them: Kelvim and Alcides Escobar. Four players share the last name: José, Ángel, Óscar and Edwin Escobar.
But in La Sabana, as in the rest of the Caribbean, baseball is more than a burning passion: it’s a way out of poverty. Ronald Jr. started playing at the town’s stadium and went straight to the MLB, always playing pro in America.
His dream is to wear the Tiburones de La Guaira uniform, his favorite team in the LVBP, following the example he had at home. His father, Ronald Acuña, played for Águilas del Zulia and Navegantes del Magallanes, getting very close to making it to the big leagues, the goal that went to his son.
The 40-40 Club
Ronald Acuña Sr. isn’t at all surprised by his son’s professional career. He actually expected it.
During one of his first interviews, when Acuña Jr. made it to the MLB, he predicted that his son would be Venezuela’s next 30-30, meaning someone capable of batting 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases on the same season. Not only that came true: Ronald Acuña Jr. is three stolen bases away from joining the 40-40 club, a feat that only four players in the history of professional baseball have achieved: José Canseco (1988,) Barry Bonds (1996,) Alex Rodríguez (1998) and Alfonso Soriano (2006).
That’s how he became the youngest player in history to achieve those figures, leaving another Venezuelan mark in the American MLB. It’s pure glory for this athlete, who’s barely 21 years old, taking over his legacy, pushing it even farther and giving us Venezuelans another reason to feel proud of our athletes.