When Curacao takes center stage in Williamsport for this year’s Little League World Series, you will encounter a familiar name: Profar. That would be Jurdrick Profar, a player for the Pabao Little League team from Willemstad, Curacao. And yes, he’s related to that Profar.
In 2004, Jurickson Profar, now the starting second baseman for the Oakland Athletics, took a star turn in helping Curacao win the LLWS title alongside future big leaguer Jonathan Schoop. The Jurickson-led Pabao club returned to Williamsport in 2005 and fell in the title game to Hawaii.
But that’s not all: In 2007 and 2008, another Profar — Juremi — played on LLWS entrants for Curacao. With Jurdrick completing the familial hat trick this year, the Profars become the second trio of brothers to play in the LLWS, according to littleleague.org.
Curacao, a tiny island off the coast of Venezuela, is roughly 171 square miles in size. For context, consider that the smallest state in the continental United States, Rhode Island, is about 1,034 square miles. Nevertheless, a steady stream of talent has flowed from Curacao into professional baseball in the U.S. in recent years. That group currently includes Jurickson and Juremi (currently playing at Triple-A in the Texas Rangers’ system), Schoop, Kenley Jansen, Andrelton Simmons and Ozzie Albies.
The first player from Curacao to break into the majors was current San Francisco Giants coach Hensley Meulens. But the biggest star from the island is former MLB center fielder Andruw Jones, whose emergence for the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s played a big part in the growth of baseball in Curacao.
Make no mistake: Curacao has become a powerhouse in Caribbean youth baseball. This year’s LLWS entrant is the 13th team from the island to earn a trip to Williamsport.
We caught up with Jurickson Profar recently in Chicago.
BRADFORD DOOLITTLE: You’ve got to be excited for Jurdrick.
JURICKSON PROFAR: He’s come a long way, and now he’s doing very well. I’m very proud of him.
BD: Do you offer him advice, or does he ask you, as he goes through this? I mean, this is a pretty big event.
JP: No. I just leave him alone so that he can enjoy it. He’s in the Little League World Series. As a little kid, that’s the best thing that there is. I want him to enjoy himself. And compete.
BD: The spotlight on this event has become so bright. How is it for the kids? How much are they able to just enjoy it?
JP: When we went there, we just enjoyed baseball. We didn’t even know how big it was. We just won in the Caribbean and then went over there and just played. And then we won it.
BD: Not that this is any news to you, but Curacao is not that big of an island. Still, in recent years, you and a number of others have not only entered Major League Baseball but also become impact players. How would you describe the baseball culture at home?
JP: We grew up watching Andruw Jones play, and when I was little, I didn’t even think about playing baseball overseas. I was just in Curacao and having fun with friends and just playing. Then, after that Little League World Series, then I could say, “I can make it.”
BD: I think Bam-Bam [Hensley Meulens] was the first player to break into the majors from there, but who were the heroes for you growing up? Just Andruw Jones?
JP: Only Andruw Jones. He was it for us. I played for him in the WBC and got to know him, too, before. We met him when we won the Little League World Series and stuff.
BD: Is there a special bond for you guys from the island who have attained so much success in this country?
JP: There is. We played on the same team, even if it was different levels, they were older. We’d see each other at practice every day. And now we are in the big leagues.
BD: A big issue with youth baseball in the U.S. is that some think it has become too structured. What is it like for youth baseball players in Curacao?
JP: We’d just get together and play baseball. We didn’t have to pay anything. We’d just go and play, and that’s it. It’s still like that there, but it’s a little bit different because we have a lot of big leaguers now, and kids want to be like us. They know what they want to be already. They want to be Major League Baseball players. Me, I didn’t know that. I was just playing baseball and enjoying it with friends. I didn’t even know I could make the big leagues. But now, they see it.
BD: For Curacao, or any team from that region, it’s quite an accomplishment to win that region, right? The competition your brother has encountered has already been pretty amazing.
JP: Oh, yeah. You have to play the Dominican, you have to play Puerto Rico. Those teams are very good. But he’s pretty good, too. He’s a big guy, so I thought he could make it. They have a really good team. But the world series is always very difficult. You have to play the U.S., you have to play Japan and all those teams. They are good too, so let’s see.
BD: What was your favorite LLWS memory on the field?
JP: Everything. Pitching. Hitting. Hitting a home run in the final.
BD: What about off the field?
JP: Coming to the U.S. for the first time and enjoying playing on grass for the first time. Playing in front of thousands of people for the first time.
BD: And playing on ESPN?
JP: (laughs) Yes, ESPN.
BD: A lot of clips and such from those series are still on YouTube, with the very young Jurickson Profar in action and talking on camera. Do you ever watch any of those?
JP: I have to. I have a little son, and all he wants to do is watch videos of me on YouTube.