Jurrjens talks to Curacao team at LLWS
Braves right-hander visits club representing his home country
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- No way Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens could turn down the invitation, not if he had a say in the matter.
But Jurrjens had no say -- not really. The decision to let Jurrjens accept Curacao's Bureau of Tourism's invitation to the Little League World Series rested with his boss -- Braves manager Bobby Cox.
And Jurrjens had no way of knowing what Cox, an old-school manager, might say. Still, Jurrjens knew he needed to ask Cox.
"He didn't take a second to allow me to come," Jurrjens said.
So with Cox's blessing, Jurrjens hopped on an airplane Saturday morning and made it here to offer moral support to right fielder Junters Dosset, third baseman Tivon Faneyte, shortstop Juremi Profar and the 11 youngsters from Willemstad, Curacao, who are representing the Caribbean Region at this year's World Series.
Jurrjens, a rookie who took a hard-luck loss on Friday night against the Giants, said he was grateful that Cox had understood the significance of the invitation. For in Curacao, the youngsters who play baseball in this picturesque, baseball-crazy country know Jurrjens.
They grew up idolizing Andruw Jones and Jurrjens.
He recognizes his celebrity there, too. He knows his presence means a great deal to the boys on the Curacao team.
"To be from Curacao and Curacao being so small and the kids playing on a big stage like this, I want to support them as much as I can," he said.
Jurrjens had hoped to make it to Williamsport before the Curacao team took the field. He'd wanted to offer them encouragement and advice, for he had been a former Little Leaguer himself as a boy.
But the game had started by the time he arrived, and Jurrjens would have to wait until afterward to sit, sign autographs and talk baseball with the boys of Curacao, a country that won the World Series in 2004.
The boys -- young and still learning baseball -- would listen to somebody like the 22-year-old Jurrjens, a countryman who'd played on big stages like this one in his young life.
And what would Jurrjens tell them when he meets those boys?
"The only thing I didn't like today was when they were behind, everybody's head was down," said Jurrjens, who saw most of the team's 6-2 loss to Mexico. "I think at that time and moment, you need to push the other teammates to keep going."
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.