Washington Nationals: Yunesky Maya, ‘The Warrior’ of Pinar del Río

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 03: Starting pitcher Yunesky Maya #29 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on June 3, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 03: Starting pitcher Yunesky Maya #29 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on June 3, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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(Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP via Getty Images) /

Former Washington Nationals pitcher Yunesky Maya is someone that came from nothing to become what the American dream embodies.

HIALEAH,FL– Before the Yunesky Maya, a native of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, would take a mound for the Washington Nationals, he was a mere ball boy for the province’s team in the Serie Nacional.

Before that, he wasn’t even a baseball player he was a seven-time Cuban national champion in karate. Nicknamed “The Warrior” by the fans because he has been battling his whole life, Maya without a doubt is a real-life success story.

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From ball boy to the National team

Maya was noticed by then manager Alfonso Urquiola of Pinar del Río, but before he could debut in Cuba military service came calling. It wasn’t until he reached the age of twenty before he was able to take the mound,” I used to help out with practice and pick up balls at the stadium for Pinar del Río,  I didn’t take the mound until I was twenty and the rest is history”, as he told the Miami Herald’s Jorge Ebro a couple years ago.

The hard-throwing righty led the Serie Nacional in 2004-05 with an ERA of 1.61. In 2008-09 he won 13 games and posted an earned run average of 2.22.

Maya would go one to be the top pitcher in Pinar and eventually the top National team pitcher. He was a member of the Cuban team that was the runner up in the inaugural WBC in 2006 and his strikeout of Carlos Lee in the first game of the tournament between Cuba and Panamá was epic.

“That Panamá game was historic for us. It gave us a breath of fresh air and the confidence to succeed for the rest of the tournament. That game reinstalled our confidence, especially because no one believed in us and this made us believe we could win the tournament. ”

I recently asked him what he felt in that matchup with Lee who was a feared slugger in the Majors during that time. This is what he said, “That strikeout is something I will never forget. I punched out a guy who had hit 37 Homer’s that year in the big leagues and with three straight fastballs, which I threw with courage. I was so consumed by the moment I left the field crying that at-bat.”

In the upcoming 2009 Classic, the righty was the top starter for the Cubans.