The story of the Dominican Republic players in Major League Baseball (MLB) began with Ozzie Virgil. He was the first player born in the Dominican to play in the league. Today, they form the biggest contingent of players besides the United States. Virgil played in all positions apart from the center field and pitcher. Here’s his story and its impact on the Dominican Republic.
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Ozzie Virgil’s Early Life
Ozzie Virgil was born on May 17, 1932, in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic, but grew up in the United States after his family moved there. After high school, the baseballer worked for the United States Marines for two years before starting his baseball career.
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Joining the MLB
In 1953, the New York Giants signed Virgil, played his first game against the Philadelphia Phillies and became the first Dominican Republic player to feature in the league. He recalled this moment in his autobiography, “Yo, Virgil, Mi Historia” (I, Virgil, My Story).
“That day will always be in my memory. It was a great historical achievement and one without any precedence in Dominican sports,” Virgil said.
The owner of the Giants rang him to break the news that he’d been selected to join the team towards the 1956 season.
“I couldn’t describe the feelings. The dream I had since I was little and worked so much at was now a reality,” he said.
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Playing in the MLB
The baseballer played for the Giants until the end of 1957. Virgil scored two RBIs and hit .235 in 96 games for the team. In 1958, he made another piece of history when he played for the Detroit Tigers against the Washington Senators. He was the first player of color to do so.
After 1958, Virgil left to play in the Minor League. He joined the Denver Bears, and his manager Charlie Metro had only nice things to say.
“Ozzie Virgil came to my club and then Detroit snapped him. He had a part-time role but his record was amazing. Before he joined the big leagues, he played in different positions and hit .400, 77 hits and batted in 55 runs,” Metro said.
The Dominican Republican player returned to the Detroit Tigers and later played for the Kansas City Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants. During his time in the major league, Virgil registered a .231 batting average with 174 hits, 14 home runs, and 73 RBIs.
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Post Playing Career
After a groundbreaking career in the MLB, Ozzie Virgil went into coaching. He was the coach of:
- New York Giants (1969–72; 1974–75)
- Montréal Expos (1976–81)
- San Diego Padres (1982–85)
- Seattle Mariners (1986–88)
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Impact on the Dominican Republic
Junior Noboa, the former manager and GM of the Dominican Winter League, talked about Virgil’s impact. “His achievements are bigger and they opened the door for us. Dominican players can be players, coaches and managers.”
Today, the Dominican Republic has produced multiple players who’ve been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The impact of Ozzie Virgil’s career is obvious. He opened the door for his countrymen to pursue a career in baseball and play in the best league, the MLB. His son followed in his footsteps and played in the MLB for 11 seasons.
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