It may not have seemed like the most historic moment of Tuesday night’s opening game of the 2015 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets: A bench player coming on in the 8th inning, substituting for Royals starting right fielder.
But Paulo Orlando isn’t your average major league ballplayer. The 29-year-old rookie is only the third big league ballplayer born in Brazil – a country known for its all-consuming love of soccer – after Yan Gomes in 2012 and Andre Rienzo in 2013, and the first ever to make it to the Series.
After they wrapped up the American League Championship Series with a taut 4-3 Game 6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, Orlando was the guy who draped himself in the Brazilian flag during the Royals Champagne-soaked clubhouse celebration.
He told reporters that the flag was his personal good luck charm that he used when Omaha won the Triple-A championship in 2014.
Gomes told the MLB Network Radio on Monday that Orlando making it to the World Series is a big deal in Brazil.
“I’m pretty sure Brazil, a couple years ago, had no idea who the Kansas City Royals were,” Gomes said. “And I can tell you right now that all of Brazil is cheering for the Kansas City Royals.”
He said, “The exposure jumps to a completely different level with Paulo being in the World Series … There’s not an interview I do that people don’t want to talk about (baseball in) Brazil … It’s like a fever right now, and people are starting to get really excited about it — especially right now, having one of our guys in the World Series.”
It wasn’t clear at the beginning of the season if the Sao Paulo-born Orlando would make the Royals’ roster coming out of spring training.
“I just thought in my mind, ‘Make the team and stay healthy,’” Orlando told the Kansas City Star. “I played a lot of years in the minor leagues.” Ten of them, in fact, encompassing nearly 1,300 games with minor-league or foreign teams.
Orlando hit five triples in his first seven games and wound up hitting .249 in 251 plate appearances with 7 home runs and 27 runs batted in.
During the playoffs, he’s been used mainly as a defensive replacement for Rios.
“He’s a guy who’s really skilled, a playmaker out there,” his teammate Lorenzo Cain told the Star, “and that’s what we need out there in the late innings when it’s crunch time.”
Nevertheless he went 2-for-3 for the Royals in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Then on Tuesday night, in the bottom of the 12th inning, Orlando – who excelled at track and field as a youngster – became the first Brazilian to record a World Series hit when he beat out an infield hit.