11/17/2009 1:29 PM ET
Jair Jurrjens: Representing Curacao
Braves pitcher proud to be from small Caribbean island
Every time I take the mound, I wear a piece of home around my neck. Back in Curacao, my sister bought me the necklace I wear. It's something that reminds me of home, but it also reminds me to stay humble and to work hard everyday. I take it with me wherever I go.
Not a lot of people probably know about my home, but Curacao is really just a laid-back island. It's not like the Bahamas. We have the same kind of beaches as the Bahamas, but we're a little bit more relaxed and laid-back. We don't have the nightlife that the Bahamas does.
But if you want a place to relax and spend some quiet time, Curacao is the place to be. It's a very small island. Everybody knows everyone, and it's very quaint. People ask me where I go on vacation, and I tell them that I just go home. My island has everything I need, so why would I go anywhere else?
When people think about players from Curacao, they think about Andruw Jones. He's one of the country's most popular players. He's well known for his great play in the playoffs and for having a great career. There were a couple of guys before him who played in the big leagues, but no one who had a career like Jones has.
When my older brother was about 18 or 19 years old, he played on the same team with Andruw. You used to have to pay money to get into the stadium, so I became the batboy for the team. That way, my dad was the only one who had to pay to see the games. I liked saving my dad some money.
Growing up there also helped me learn a lot of languages. I say I speak four languages, but it's really more like three and a half languages. I'm losing my Dutch speaking ability a little. I can still read and understand Dutch well, but I'm not speaking it as much, so it's fading. I speak and read three other languages, though.
I pitch in the United States now, but I never forget where I come from. I'm very proud to be the first pitcher from Curacao to play in the Major Leagues, and with that pride comes the responsibility to be a good role model for kids back home. Maybe I can open the door for more players from Curacao.
Jair Jurrjens was a 14-game winner for Atlanta this season after winning 13 games in 2008. The 23-year-old right-hander had a 2.60 ERA while striking out 152 batters in 215 innings over 34 starts. He finished strong, winning the NL Pitcher of the Month Award in September.