By STEVE KRAH
Jones aka “The Curacao Kid” played 17 Major League Baseball seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees and paved the way for players from the Caribbean island nation of 150,000.
“Baseball has always been big, but since Andruw Jones got to The League it has gotten even bigger,” says Chris Peters, a pitcher-turned-position player who is working on his diamond future with the Low Class-A Midwest League’s South Bend Cubs. “Scouts started coming over even more looking for talent. I think I can pretty much say baseball is the No. 1 sport (in Curacao) right now.”
After he went 3-5 with a 7.16 earned run average in 29 games on the mound, Pieters was moved to first base for the 2015 and 2016 seasons and has been used primarily in right field in South Bend.
“As a kid, I always liked hitting,” says Pieters, now 22. “I was very happy when (the Cubs) gave me the chance, the opportunity to become a position player. I’m just going for a dream or a goal which is to get to the big leagues.”
Pieters was a mid-season Northwest League All-Star at Eugene in 2016 while hitting .246 with three home runs, 28 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases in 66 games.
“Speed is one of the biggest parts of my game,” says Pieters.
Through his first 55 games in 2017 (he has spent two stints on the 7-day disabled list), Pieters was hitting .240 with four homers, 21 RBI and nine steals, including .342-1-5-2 in his last 10 games.
“I’ve progressed a lot this season,” says Pieters. “I’ve learned a lot from my coaches. I’m really grateful for them.”
Pieters, a 6-foot-3, 185-pounder who bats and throws left-handed, explains his approach at the plate: “Look for my pitch and do damage to it. Don’t get myself out. Go up with a plan, look for a certain pitch and attack it.”
Pieters comes from a place where it is often 90 degrees and humid. The upper Midwest did not offer that kind of climate in the early part of the season, but it’s been more Curacao-like as the summer has heated up and Pieters is enjoying his time in the River City.
“South Bend is pretty chill,” says Pieters. “Since the cold weather went away, it’s been perfect. I can’t complain.”
Chris Pieters was signed by the Chicago Cubs as a pitcher in 2011. He is an outfielder with the Low Class-A South Bend Cubs in 2017. (South Bend Cubs Photo)