Among the spoils of Eduardo Escobar’s 10-year anniversary in the big leagues was a bottle of sparkling wine signed by his teammates, a T-shirt commemorating the occasion and an oversized, $10,000 check for his foundation. Everyone around him seemed to want to offer something tangible in congratulations. The respect for Escobar runs that deep.
“It’s unbelievable for me because I remember when I started baseball, nobody believed in me,” Escobar said over the weekend, shortly after completing his 10th full year of Major League service time. “I continued working hard, continued to respect the game, played hard every day, no matter what. Look at me now. Ten years, it’s unbelievable. Hopefully, I’ll play for more. Until God wants [me] out, that’s when I’ll continue playing.”
Escobar’s story is as well-documented as it is unorthodox. Signed at 17 out of Venezuela for $25,000, a fraction of what top international prospects receive, Escobar was a right-handed center fielder and pitcher who didn’t learn to play shortstop or pinch-hit until he was a teenager. He used that first bonus to renovate his mother’s house, and to take his friends to the mall to buy them new clothes and shoes.
Never did he dream he would forge an MLB career of more than a decade. When Escobar hit that milestone after years with the White Sox, Twins, D-backs and Brewers, Max Scherzer — a new teammate who is deeply involved in union business and player rights — read a speech in the clubhouse lauding him as “the 1,705th player to reach 10 years out of 20,000 players” and “the 10th Venezuelan player to reach 10 years.”
The signed bottle of cava and the celebratory T-shirts came from Escobar’s teammates, many of whom did not get to know him until he signed a two-year, $20 million contract to join the club last November. The $10,000 check came from Fogo de Chão, the Brazilian steakhouse chain that Escobar has frequented for years. Before Opening Day, Escobar treated the Mets’ entire traveling party to a Fogo de Chão dinner in Washington. He’s since taken teammates and staffers to other Fogo locations around the country.
When Escobar hit 10 years of service time, even his favorite restaurant was eager to celebrate.
“I feel really happy, because this is a dream that every player wants to be able to reach,” Escobar said. “Once you do things the right way, and you’re humble and you treat the game right, you’re able to get what you want out of it.”