Long, winding road rewarded with Cubs debut for Esteban Quiroz
If you were driving through downtown Chicago Friday night, chances are you weren’t moving much as waves of Mexican flags were stopping traffic and blocking any line of sight. While it wasn’t a celebration for the arrival of Ciudad Obregón’s own Esteban “El Pony” Quiroz getting his first call up to the majors Saturday, it was a personal form of overcoming on a day folks from his country celebrated theirs.
“When I got the news [of getting called up], I’d be lying to you if I said there weren’t tears,” he said. “So many years fighting for this. I’m going to try and enjoy this the best I can.”
Quiroz’s path to professional baseball in the States didn’t begin until he was 26, when the Boston Red Sox signed him after 7 years of playing ball in Mexico. Since then, he’s spent the past 5 years between minor league affiliates of Boston, San Diego, Tampa Bay and now Chicago, after being traded from the Rays for Harold Ramírez in March.
Quiroz made his debut Saturday in the 9th inning, pinch-hitting for Nelson Velázquez and striking out.
All in all, he’s played 12 seasons of professional baseball with a career .282/.402/.455 slash. But with the way his 2022 campaign was going, the call to the big-league squad came as a surprise.
“I still don’t believe it,” Quiroz said. “It’s something that since I got to the United States and since I had been playing in Mexico, still seemed so far away. It’s been a year that’s involved a lot of hard work and has had its complications, but I’ve managed to stay focused on what I want.”
The complications came in the form of left knee surgery in May while with Triple-A Iowa that kept him out about 2 and a half months.
Quiroz, a versatile infielder, played in 120 games in 2021 between Triple-A Durham, winter ball in Mexico and the Caribbean Series. This is coming off a year where a pandemic shut down minor league baseball for a full season.
“I think my body may have been fatigued a bit,” he said about his knee issue. “I came back [from injury] and had a difficult season in terms of batting average and home runs because of the injury to my left knee. But these past 2 weeks, 20 days, my knee has been feeling better and I’ve had better games.”
Friday before his call up, he went 3-for-4 with a solo home run and a pair of RBI singles in a 7-6 win for the Iowa Cubs. In September, “El Pony” is slashing .316/.426/.553 over 38 at-bats.
While bells won’t ring when his name gets called over the PA, he’ll hope to call back to the crowd’s “gritos” with his first major league hit.