A Blog of Toronto Blue Jays Prospects Interviews, Evaluations and News

Finding Success Abroad – Part II: Balbino Fuenmayor

Finding Success Abroad – Part II: Balbino Fuenmayor

August 10, 2012

Last season, Balbino Fuenmayor hit .305 with 18 doubles and 41 RBIs.

In Part I for our series, “Finding Success Abroad,” we took a closer look at the emerging pitcher, Javier Avendano, the Venezuelan righty who accredits a lot of his growth as a professional to his time spent playing winter ball at home. As we turn our attention to the other side of the plate, we find the Vancouver Canadians’ leading slugger and fellow countryman, Balbino Fuenmayor, who is achieving similar types of success. There is one difference though – Balbino is now playing for more than just his career.

Balbino Fuenmayor Quick Facts:
Position: Third Baseman
Bats / Throws: Right
Number: 28
Height: 6’ 3’’ Weight: 235 Pounds
Home Town: Valencia Edo Carabobo, Venezuela
Draft: 2006 – Selected by the Toronto Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent
This Season: After helping the C’s to capture their Northwest Crown last year, Balbino has become Vancouver’s clean-up hitter. After a torrid start, Fuenmayor is now batting .267. His 50 hits, 5 HRs, and 37 RBIs are all tops for the squad.

Q: How would you say your season is going so far?
Balbino: My season has been good. My team is playing pretty good. The first half was tough but my team competed every game. My manager is a great manager, great motivation in every game for my teammates.

Q: What has been the difference in your approach this season?
Balbino: I think this year is a great season because of more experience. And Dave Pano, the hitting coach, is working a lot with me: on my hitting approach and my mechanics. I think this year is much better because I lost the pounds, working hard. [I have] more agility on the field and more focus.

Q: Let’s talk about the focus part, what is your mentality coming up to bat each time?
Balbino: I think it’s being be positive and have concentration every pitch, every inning. And not swinging breaking pitches in the dirt. I need to focus on the fastball because sometimes my problem is selecting the pitch.

Q: Like your teammate Javier, during the off-season you play in the Venezuelan winter league. Can you discuss what that experience is like for you?
Balbino: It’s very good because when I’m playing winter ball from Venezuela, I’m giving information to the minor league players in Venezuela. I’m playing with Omar Infante, Carlos Zambrano, and Magglio Ordonez. And they are giving out advice in the dugout. ‘As a young player, you need to play hard, don’t be lazy on the field, and practice. It’s great. It’s good to play winter ball because it’s good for myself. More information, more experience, it’s helpful.

Fuenmayor told JaysProspects that being told he will be a father has made him even more focused

So what is the Venezuelan winter league? And why aren’t we sending all of our minor leaguers there during the off season? Well, I’m guessing you’d have to be Venezuelan first before you consider flying across the continent. But on a serious note, the winter league, as described by Balbino, is an eight-team league that plays between October, November, and December. And much like the Canadians season, the players play about six days per week. Furthermore, the level of competition can go from Single-A minor leaguers to MLB veterans, making the experience invaluable for the up and coming Latin American ball players.
But rest assured, when Balbino, Javier, and the rest of the Canadians suit up in the Red and White jerseys, their focus in on the here and now.

Q: What are your goals going forward?

Balbino: My goal is to be a champion again. Play hard because I want to defend the championship. I want to move up [in the Jays organization], but my first goal is my team. I want to go to the playoffs again.

Q: And who is that one player you look up to in the big leagues right now?
Balbino: My favorite player is Miguel Cabrera for the Detroit Tigers. He’s a really good player. He’s from Venezuela too and plays first base.

As Balbino tries to emulate this year’s AL MVP candidate, he’s got a bigger issue at hand. Balbino recently found out that his wife back home in Venezuela is pregnant and they will be expecting a baby in the near future. The always friendly and cheerful Balbino beamed an extra wide smile across his face when I asked him about his upcoming child.

“Oh yeah, I’m so excited because my wife is pregnant. Beginning in October, I will have a daughter! Yeah, this point, it’s really good motivation for me. To keep this going, it’s my job, to concentration here. I’m communicating with my wife and my family every morning. But when I go to the field, I’m thinking about here.”

For many foreign players, there is a huge responsibility to support those back home. It is important to give back to the community that raised and gave them the opportunity to make a healthy living playing professional baseball aboard. And with the news of this upcoming addition to the family, we can expect this slugger to be working as hard as he can going forward.