Professional baseball players are paid handsomely to play a kid’s game. We are told this often. Players like Washington Nationals pitcher Paolo Espino get by on the league minimum. For Espino, his contract is pro-rated as he’s spent time in the minors this year and is not guaranteed to end the year in the Majors. Some athletes fall into generational wealth. As for Espino, he just has stories he’ll tell generations of his family after his ball playing days are over.
Up until now, his story was, “I played Major League Baseball.” That is until June 16th, 2021, when the story became, “I won a Major League Baseball game, and here is the game ball from that day.”
Nationals pitcher Paolo Espino has waited a long time to taste victory. He waits no more.
A journeyman reliever. A career minor leaguer. Organizational depth. Espino has been called every name in the book. You’ve heard all the cliches. Enter all the minor league cities he’s played for. Enter all the organizations he has pitched for. Enter all the times he has been signed to a minor league contract, solely to pitch in the minor leagues with nary a hope to pitch at the big league level.
This is what baseball is about. They all can’t be high schoolers who make the cover of Sports Illustrated as the LeBron James of baseball. They all can’t be the no-doubt number one pick in the draft. They all can’t be the Chosen Juan. With $300M contracts becoming common place in baseball, there are scores more who make the what’s at the bottom of the barrel.
A professional since 2007, Espino had only made four starts in the majors in his career. He hadn’t pitched five innings in any of those starts. He went five in his win against the Pittsburgh Pirates, efficiently throwing just 53 pitches while scattering three hits. Espino didn’t issue any free passes and struck out two, none bigger than the one he recorded with a man on third base with one out in the fourth inning.
Yan Gomes and Josh Bell provided the run support which earned Espino the win. Gomes homered, but he’s done so 109 times before in his career. Bell homered, but he’s done so 94 times before in his career. On this day, Paolo Espino was a winning pitcher, for the first time in his career.