SARASOTA, Fla. – Henry Urrutia wasn’t a part of the Orioles minicamp. He lives in Sarasota and uses the facility as his home base.
Urrutia, who came to the U.S. less than three years ago, will be 29 just before spring training begins next month, and he thinks this is a big year for him.
He was in Venezuela playing winter ball, and after a break, has resumed workouts.
“I’m very proud of myself, doing my job last year in the minors and in the big leagues. I have to get a chance this year, many more at-bats in spring training,” Urrutia said.
Last year, in his second stint in the big leagues, Urrutia hit .265 in 10 games.
“Wherever they want, they know I can play right field, I can play left field. I’m real excited now that I can show them that I can play the outfield. I can throw to the bases and I can do my stuff back there. I really need to get a chance to prove what I can do on the field. I think they know what I can do with my bat,” Urrutia said.
Last month, Urrutia, who defected from Cuba in 2012, returned there for the first time since. At the time of his defection, Urrutia was under suspension in Cuba for an earlier unsuccessful defection. Normally, he would have had to wait eight years to visit.
“It’s amazing how people know about your job here. They never forget you. Everybody has cellphones with my video,” Urrutia said.
“It’s pretty good to know that people are still supporting you in another country. [Cuba] doesn’t have internet like us or TVs to see major league games every day.”
Urrutia, who has two brothers and two sisters in Cuba, spent the week with his family.
“I can’t explain it. I was crying for the first 15, 20 minutes,” Urrutia said.
Four years after last seeing his family, Urrutia was amazed at how much his four young nieces have grown.
“It’s hard because you miss time with your family. I lost a long time. I feel happy to be there to be happy for a week. It’s too short, but it was awesome.”
Urrutia has to wait two more years to return to Cuba. He is a U.S. resident, and can become a citizen in two more years, something that he’s looking forward to.
“This country now is my home. I feel great here. I feel happy to be here. I have a lot of people here supporting my career. Also I have a lot of friends,” Urrutia said.