From Bologna to the Major Leagues

There are many routes to the major leagues. Some choose to go to Japan and then find their way back to the major leagues. Some play in Independent ball to keep their hopes alive. Robel Garcia chose to go to Italy to play baseball there.

Robel was born in the Dominican Republic. He tried the traditional route, signing a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians in 2010. He played four years in A ball towns, his batting average hovering around the Mendoza line., sometimes just over .200 but many times below .200 There were a lot of strikeouts and failures. He was released after spring training in 2014.

In 2016 Garcia got an opportunity to play baseball in Italy for a team named Imola, not one of the better teams in Italy. The next year he signed with Unipol Bologna. At the European Champions Cup in 2017 he led Bologna to a second place finish, leading all players in RBIs with 10. In the Italian playoffs in 2018 he hit a homerun in game four to lead Bologna to the Italian League championships over Parma. That got him an invite to the national team where in October 2018 Team Italy went down to Arizona to play some exhibition games against minor league prospects. The Chicago Cubs took a liking to his bat and signed him on October 31, 2018.

For most journeys there would be long empty road trips with no visits to the major leagues. For Robel he hit 21 homeruns in 72 games, first in AA and then in AAA. He drove in 58 runs during those games.

The Cubs were struggling. They needed to find a bat. What was there to lose by calling up Garcia. They called him up on July 3, when many 16 year old Dominicans are signing minor league contracts, hoping for that path to the major leagues. Anthony Rizzo, who played for Italy in the World Baseball Classic gave him the traditional European greeting in the dugout, cheek to cheek.

The first at bat for Robel cam on July 3. It did not go well. He came up as a pinch hitter and struck out. The next game he started and was a double short of the cycle. He hopes to continue on that major league path, but if he should veer off and get sent back down to the minors he can at least say he got on the path. That is more than most people can say. Robel Garcia is a major leaguer, something he may not have been thinking about during those weekend games in Italy. From Bologna to the major leagues.

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