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Shortstops share native spotlight
10/25/2004 10:28 AM ET
ST. LOUIS -- A World Series being played thousands of miles away has residents of a small Latin American country tuned in like never before.

"It's front-page news every day," Red Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera said. "They start the news with the World Series and that's never happened. Soccer is the big sport there."

But even soccer has been booted to secondary status in Colombia, which has two of its native sons playing shortstop in the 100th World Series -- Cabrera for the Red Sox and Edgar Renteria for the National League champion Cardinals.

Not bad for a country that has produced just seven Major League players.

"The entire country is watching and we are really proud," Cabrera said. "People (in Colombia) don't know much about baseball, but they're all getting the games on TV live. With two shortstops in the World Series, it's really big right now and we want to represent our country in a good way."

Imagine, two shortstops from the same tiny country playing starring roles in the World Series, which resumes Tuesday night at Busch Stadium with the Red Sox holding a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Series.

If only Cabrera's dad, Jolbert, was still alive to see this.

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Jolbert Cabrera died of a lung infection nearly four years ago at age 50, but he definitely left his mark on MLB. As a scout for the Marlins, Jolbert signed his son, Jolbert (who now plays for the Mariners), and Renteria to professional contracts.

"My dad tried to sign me, but the Marlins didn't think I was the prototype player they were looking for, so they wouldn't let him," Orlando said. "They were looking for Renteria-type players in Colombia. He was taller, stronger and better than me."

Cabrera, born and raised in Cartagena, a walled Spanish-colonial city, went to college, honed his baseball skills, and signed with the Expos in 1993, earning his first promotion to the big leagues in 1997. Renteria, who is from Barrenquilla, which also is the home to pop star Shakira, is one year younger than Cabrera, two inches taller and almost 20 pounds heavier.

   Edgar Renteria  /   SS
Born: 08/07/75
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

The Cardinals shortstop also is the most famous baseball player in Colombia, thanks to a warm October night in 1997 when he singled home the run that gave the Florida Marlins their first World Series championship.

"He has the edge over me in everything," Cabrera said prior to Game 2 in Boston. "He's a .300 hitter, and can do anything and everything you ask him to do. He's a very consistent player."

Renteria, who batted .287 during the regular season with 10 home runs and 72 RBIs, is hitting .286 (2-for- 7) with one RBI in the Fall Classic. Cabrera, who batted .264 with 10 home runs and 62 RBIs for the Expos and Red Sox, is 2-for-8 with three RBIs so far in this World Series.

"We are enjoying this as much as we can," Cabrera said.

The friends were shown conversing at second base during a Game 1 pitching change, only a few minutes after Cabrera had been hit with a pitch that glanced off his left shoulder and smashed against his chin.

"We were just talking about our at-bats, the way we were hitting the ball and things like that," Cabrera said. "He asked me about my chin and I told him it was OK."

But Cabrera would rather talk about something other than himself.

The 30-year-old father of two speaks superb English and has a good grasp of what he and Renteria have accomplished.

   Orlando Cabrera  /   SS
Born: 11/02/74
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Cabrera and Renteria are the fourth and fifth Colombians to play in the Major Leagues and he pointed out that the first one -- Luis Castro -- actually was the first Latin American to play in the big leagues.

"He played for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902," Orlando said.

Castro batted .245 that season, his only season in the Majors.

Orlando Ramirez was an infielder for the California Angels from 1974-79, batting .189 (53-for-281) with no home runs and 16 RBIs.

Jackie Gutierrez was the first Colombian native to have a semi-successful career in the Majors, compiling a .237 batting average during stints with the Red Sox (1983-85), Orioles (1986-87) and Phillies (1988). But he didn't have much power, either, hitting eight home runs in 957 career at-bats.

And then along came Renteria, Jolbert Cabrera and his younger brother, Orlando. Yamid Haad joined the list with one at-bat for the Pirates in 1999.

Renteria and Cabrera have been major contributors to their big-league teams.

Renteria has batted higher than .300 twice in his MLB career (.305 in 2002 and .330 in '03), has a .289 career average, belted 83 home runs and driven in 565 runs.

Cabrera entered the Series with a .269 career hitting mark, 72 home runs and 412 RBIs.

It's enough to make an entire nation proud. And it has.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.