WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – POSTCARDS FROM THE U.S.A.
From: Nagua, Dominican Republic
Height/Weight: 6-feet-4, 210 pounds
Birthday: Jan. 22, 1984 (Age 26)
Team: Colorado Rockies
Contract: He signed a four-year, US$10 million deal in January of 2009. He’ll make US$1.25 million this year.
What he’s been up to: He may be the best pitcher on the planet.
He’s emerged as a candidate for the National League Cy Young Award, given annually to the league’s best pitcher. The right-hander has a record of 17 wins and four losses, as he leads the National League in wins, is eighth in earned-run average (2.66) and ninth in strikeouts (156). He’s a major reason why Colorado is 65-60, five games behind Philadelphia in the race for the wild card, a berth in the postseason.
“I'm relaxed, not worried about money,” he said, as reported by the American daily USA Today. “I just go pitch, try to enjoy the game and don't have anything else in my mind.”
But Ubaldo Jiménez’s signature moment of the season so far occurred on April 17, when he threw a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves, becoming the first player in team history to accomplish the feat.
“Last year I told him, ‘Any day now you're going to throw a no-hitter,’” says Phillies reliever José Contreras, his teammate at the end of last season, USA Today reported. “He's got everything: velocity, a big-time curve, a 90-mph split with a big break. And his pitches move. When he gets to the seventh or eighth inning, he's still throwing 98. And he works like a beast.”
The game was a catalyst for Ubaldo Jiménez, who parlayed his success into an invitation to last month’s All-Star Game, where he started for the National League. But those who have followed Ubaldo Jiménez closely are not surprised by his success.
He set a record during the 2009 World Baseball Classic when he struck out a record 10 of 13 batters he faced in a game against the Netherlands. He used the performance to spring-board into a strong season that saw him post a 15-12 record with a 3.47 ERA.
Even more impressive, he went a staggering 25 straight starts during the major league season in which he lasted at least six innings. In 2008, he showed he was just as durable when he started an NL-best 34 games and led the Majors with an average fastball speed of more than 94.9 mph.
“I'm actually beginning to run out of words really to describe not only the excellence but the dominance in which this guy is pitching,” said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, according to The Associated Press. “He’s as good as it gets.”
Off the field: Ubaldo Jiménez is active in the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club Foundation and the Colorado Rockies Charity Fund. Since 1991, the groups have contributed more than US$16 million to community programs in the Denver area.
These groups target not only community, journalism and citizenship programs, but also those that put an emphasis on underprivileged and at-risk youth, drug and alcohol abuse awareness and prevention, and education and literacy.
“In order for special things to happen, you have to have special people,” said Tracy, as reported by MLB.com. “We have a whole clubhouse full of them. In my opinion, [this season] couldn't happen to a better human being and a more talented human being than this guy.”
Did you know? Ubaldo Jiménez lives in downtown Denver with his mother Ramona García de Jiménez. He has attributed some of his recent success to his mother’s living with him. She cooks his meals, which include a lot of rice, but back home in the Dominican Republic, she has been known to go as far as to roast a goat.
“I think it helps my pitching,” said Ubaldo Jiménez, The Denver Post reported. “It gives me energy and it makes me happy to eat my mom's food.”
Ubaldo Jiménez prepared for his stardom in the United States by taking a one-hour bus ride from his hometown to Santo Domingo so he could take a three-hour English class every Saturday for two years.
“First I played baseball from 8 a.m. till noon, and after the games I would go home, have lunch, then at 2 p.m. I would take the bus,” he said, as reported by USA Today. “Thank God my sister went with me, because I was always tired and would fall asleep. So she was the one who looked out for our stop.”