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Aruba has produced only five major leaguers, the best-known being Sidney Ponson, who pitched for the Yankees and Orioles. Baseball fields in Aruba are mostly devoid of grass. There is only one artificial turf stadium in this country of 100,000.
On that small island, Xander Bogaerts’s uncle, Glenroy Brown, devised a training routine for his nephew. Brown would pitch tiny, curved almonds from the sprawling tree in the family’s backyard. Xander would use a broomstick to spray almond joy out among the cactus in the neighborhood. If he could track a tiny almond, a baseball would look like a beach ball.
In 2013, at the age of 21, Bogaerts hit .296 in the postseason and won a World Series ring, a first for a native of Aruba.