ORACLE PARK — The first person Mauricio Dubon called was his older brother, Danilo.
As he pulled out of the parking lot of Sacramento’s Raley Field at noon on Tuesday for the 85-mile drive to Oracle Park, Mauricio told Danilo that he was being called up to the San Francisco Giants. “He didn’t believe me,” Mauricio said. “I told him to turn on the game tonight.”
Mauricio left Danilo and his native Honduras for Sacramento at 15 to pursue his dream of playing professional baseball. Danilo, once a promising ballplayer, had not only inspired his younger brother, but trained him, helping to develop the skills and instincts that have made him into the Giants’ second baseman of the future.
“He was a role model,” Mauricio said. “It was everything — the people I associate with, defensively, offensively, everything.”
Growing up in soccer-mad Honduras, Mauricio fell in love with baseball because of Danilo. A shortstop on the Honduran national team, Danilo had tried to get signed to a professional contract, but at 16, an elbow injury ended his career.
Once Danilo gave up playing, he focused on helping Mauricio, seven years his junior. They started playing in the backyard of their home in San Pedru Sula, where Danilo threw a taped up ball of newspaper to Mauricio, wielding a broom-handle bat. As Mauricio got older, they moved their practice sessions to a baseball field, 10 minutes away by foot, where Danilo would hit grounders to sharpen Mauricio’s middle infield skills.
“When there was nobody around, he was the one to throw me BP,” Mauricio said. “It’s thanks to him, I’m here. After school, it was eat, then go to baseball.”
Mauricio played shortstop for a local club team, and started playing internationally, sometimes driving 15 hours to tournaments with his father. American missionary groups would periodically come down to try and help spread the game, but their promises of playing in the United States didn’t come to fruition for Mauricio.
When a group from Impact International Baseball Academy in Sacramento came to Dubon’s hometown in June of 2010, he was skeptical. He didn’t want to go to the field and be disappointed again. His mother, Jeanett, told him to go. He picked up his eight-year-old glove and dazzled the visiting coaches with his quick hands and strong arm. Among the retinue was the head coach of Capital Christian High School, Nelson Randolph.
Three days later, Mauricio waved to Danilo and their parents as he ascended an airport escallator with future host dad Andy Ritchey and future host brother Ben Ritchey. He spent that summer fighting homesickness, living in Rosemont with the Ritcheys and playing club baseball for the Sacramento Heat.
After returning to Honduras for his sophomore year of high school, Dubon returned to Sacramento for good the next May. He idolized Brandon Crawford, buying his jersey and wearing it to every game he attended. After two stellar seasons at Sacramento-Capital Christian, he was drafted in the 26th round by the Boston Red Sox in 2013 and signed for $16,000. Danilo helped him afford minor league life.
“When I didn’t have a lot of money, he’s the one who bought me my bats,” Mauricio said. “Thanks to him, I’m here.”
Traded to the Brewers in 2016, he quickly became Milwaukee’s No. 5 prospect. After an ACL tear shortened his 2018 season, he returned to hit .297 in his first 98 games of 2019, slugging 16 homers. He became the first Honduran major leaguer with his debut on July 7 — once his brother’s dream — and after a brief cameo with the Brewers, was sent back down. He then became the centerpiece of San Francisco’s trade deadline acquisitions, labeled “a piece of the long-term puzzle” by president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. San Francisco soon released longtime starting second baseman Joe Panik.
When Dubon arrived at Triple-A Sacramento — where he put aside 35 tickets per game for his two former host families, the Ritcheys and the Garcias — he slashed .323/.391/.485 with four home runs and 23 runs in 25 games, all but forcing San Francisco to call him up, and release big-league deadline acquisition Scooter Gennett. He used to own a Pablo Sandoval panda hat, and drive to games over the Bay Bridge. On Tuesday, he took the same route, but pulled into the players’ parking lot, and got a bear hug from Sandoval in the home locker room.
“It’s crazy,” Dubon said.
Dubon didn’t get called up just to sit, though he didn’t get in on Tuesday. He’ll spell Crawford at times, and at others, be his double play partner.
“We want to see what he can do,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He has really, really good instincts. Really good tools.”
Dubon was having breakfast Tuesday morning with his second host family — Tyson and Nancy Garcia — when Sacramento manager Dave Brundage called to tell him he was getting called up. They cancelled the order, and Dubon headed to the field to grab his gear.
When Mauricio called his brother, Danilo was working on his farm in Honduras, where he grows chili peppers. After the incredulity passed, Danilo had just three words for his baby brother: “Good. About time.”