In Search of Adriano Rosario

Baseball is filled with all kinds of interesting stories and sidelines that could keep someone busy for months if they are willing to just look around. Minor league baseball is especially fruitful for stories that border on the bizarre. The Diamondbacks have had their fair share of interesting tales during their brief 10 year history. There is the story of Alex Cabrera who came of seemingly nowhere to burst onto the scene in 2000. With his first at-bat at then Bank One Ballpark Cabrera hit a monster shot to left field for a home run. Cabrera looked like a body builder and played sparingly for the Diamondbacks that season before having his contract sold to Japan after the season. Alex would once again make headlines in 2007 when his name appeared prominently in the Mitchell Report on performance enhancing drugs. There is also the story of first round draft pick Nick Bierbrodt who struggled as a rookie in 2001 and was dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in exchange for pitcher Albie Lopez. Bierbrodt would see his career derailed when he was shot in the back of a cab while waiting at the drive-thru window to a fast food restaurant. The reason for the shooting was that Nick had told a passerby to turn down his boom box because it was too loud. But all of these stories pale to the bizarre episodes of Adriano Rosario.

Who is Adriano Rosario you ask? That is an interesting question and one the Arizona Diamondbacks found themselves asking in 2004. Adriano Rosario was a 17-year old pitcher signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2002 in the Dominican Republic. He was highly sought after by both the Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers. At the time of his signing it appeared that the Dodgers actually had the upper hand in contract negotiations. Suddenly though Rosario signed with the Diamondbacks and was assigned to Missoula of the Pioneer League. Rosario had an electric fastball and was quickly ranked as one of the best prospects in the Diamondbacks organization. Adriano went from the Missoula Osprey to the South Bend Silver Hawks in 2003 and to the El Paso Diablos in 2004. adrianorosario.jpgIt was clear that Rosario was on the fast track to the major leagues. But then things started to unravel for Adriano Rosario. Troubles began when ESPN began reporting discrepancies in the signing practices of Rosario’s contract. According to those familiar with the situation the Diamondbacks paid $400,000 to sign Adriano. Rosario paid Ivan Noboa – a “buscone” which is an independent talent developer a fee of 25 percent or $100,000. The Diamondbacks had likewise paid Noboa $100,000 meaning that Ivan was double dipping. To further complicate matters Ivan Noboa is the brother of Junior Noboa who at the time was the Diamondbacks director of Latin American operations. After a lengthy investigation the Diamondbacks were cleared of any wrong-doing and if the story ended there it would make an interesting short blog entry on Adriano Rosario but this is where the story begins not where it ends.

During its investigation of the signing of Rosario, ESPN also uncovered that there were questions about who exactly Adriano Rosario really was. Rosario who was represented by the king of controversy Scott Boras was not necessarily forthright with his personal information. According to birth records it seems that the person claiming to be Adriano Rosario was in actuality Ramon Antonio Pena Paulino and rather than a 17 year-old prospect when he signed was actually a 20 year-old pitcher from the Dominican Republic. I’ve heard that time flies when you are having fun but Adriano Rosario just aged 3 years without moving a single muscle. This was like something you would see on a daytime soap opera during sweeps week and it just kept getting better. In order to play baseball in the United States a player from the Dominican Republic must have a proper visa to work in the United States. After the events of September 11, 2001 the United States tended to frown upon people pretending to be someone else in order to enter the country. They therefore pulled Adriano Rosario’s papers and deported him out of El Paso back to the Dominican Republic. It took nearly a year to straighten everything out meaning that the player formerly known as Adriano Rosario was now not only 3 years older but just missed another year of pitching. When things were finally straightened out the Diamondbacks no longer held the rights to Adriano Rosario but found a roster spot occupied by Ramon Antonio Pena Paulino. There were questions on what exactly they would do. The one constant through all of this though was the electric fastball and as such Ramon Antonio Pena Paulino continued to rise through the minor leagues of the Diamondbacks organization and after the Jose Valverde trade to Houston on December 14 Ramon Antonio Pena Paulino became a leading candidate to be the next closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks. You may know him by his shortened name of Tony Pena.

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