Exclusive: I hope my story will inspire UAE kids to play baseball, says MLB star

Venezuela's Robinson Chirinos made it to MLB without any baseball background in the family. Now he co-owns a new baseball league in UAE

by

Rituraj Borkakoty

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Robinson Chirinos at the Dubai International Stadium. — Photo by Rituraj Borkakoty
Robinson Chirinos at the Dubai International Stadium. — Photo by Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Fri 24 Nov 2023, 1:07 AM

Last updated: Fri 24 Nov 2023, 8:42 AM

Without any baseball background in the family, Robinson Chirinos embarked on a remarkable journey from Venezuela to Major League Baseball.

Chirinos was only 16 when he was picked by the Chicago Cubs in 2000 — the result of his tireless efforts to make it big.


But it was not an overnight success story for him in America.

Chirinos had to work very hard on his game to climb up the ladder before finally making his MLB debut with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.


He retired with an impressive MLB record as a catcher with stints at Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, and Baltimore Orioles.

Now as a co-owner of Baseball United, a new ambitious baseball league launched to grow the sport in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, Chirinos hopes to inspire people from different backgrounds to play the sport he fell in love with at the age of five.

“I was just five years old when I first went to a baseball ground, that was in Venezuela. I had no baseball background, nobody in the family had ever played baseball,” Chirinos told the Khaleej Times.

As he stepped on the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, the outfield of which has now been turned into a baseball diamond for the two exhibition matches on this Friday and Saturday, Chirinos sounded confident of producing a future generation of baseball stars in the UAE.

“I know most people here don’t have a baseball background. But my family also had no connection with the sport until my father took me to a game just for sporting activity. And I fell in love with it.

“I think my story is an example that kids with no baseball background can play this sport in this region.”

But Chirinos never had MLB ambitions until he turned 12.

“When you are a kid, you don’t want to play to go to the Major League Baseball. You just play for fun, play with your friends, trying to enjoy the game, smell the grass, throw the ball, catch the ball,” he said.

“My father thought baseball would help me enjoy my life, but later on this sport became my life.”

His first baseball contract with the Cubs remains the greatest day of his life.

“It was a dream come true for the whole family. I remember my mom and dad had tears in their eyes, my younger brother. It was an emotional moment for everyone in the family," he recalled.

“My dad was also the first agent. He discussed the contract with Chicago Cubs, he was the one trying to get the right amount of money.

“Imagine, he never played the game, he never put on a uniform, but he introduced me to the game, and he also became my first agent.

“So it was the result of the work my whole family put in. I put all the work in the field, but my mom and dad and my family put the work outside of the field, it was a family, teamwork to make it to the big league.”

Now Chirinos is working tirelessly with other former MLB stars and Kash Shaikh, Majority Owner of Baseball United, to help youngsters gain a foothold in the sport.

“I know it’s going to happen in this part of the world too. That’s what Baseball United is trying to do and we are starting on Friday night,” he said, referring to the first of the two exhibition games between East All-Stars and West All-Stars.

The first edition of the league featuring four teams — (Dubai Wolves, Abu Dhabi Falcons, Mumbai Cobras and Karachi Monarchs) — is scheduled to take place in Dubai next year.

Chirinos says it will be one of the greatest accomplishments of his life if he can play a part in establishing baseball footprints in the desert.

“Yes, I believe we can do that. The whole group in Baseball United believe that. I think we can achieve something big, something special here,” he said.

“We can inspire the youngsters to come and play baseball here. We are going to give them all the opportunities.

“Of course, it’s easy to say this, but it’s going to be hard, it will require a lot of work, and a lot of money, to be able to make an impact. We are up to the challenge and we believe we can accomplish a lot of good things.”

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