Any day could be your best.
That has kept Nelson Figueroa going through 13 professional baseball seasons.
Any day could be your last.
That has kept Figueroa determined enough to survive 13 professional baseball seasons.
He has done some time in the big leagues with the Diamondbacks and the Phillies and the Brewers and the Pirates. But most of his days have been spent looking out the window of a bus in places like Kingsport and Columbia and Binghamton. There have also been stops in Tucson and Scranton and Indianapolis and Nashville and New Orleans.
He has pitched in the Mexican League. And he has won some big games in the Chinese Professional Baseball League.
Figueroa has always been willing to throw a baseball for any team willing to hand him one.
He spent this winter with the Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican League. He helped them secure a title with two big wins in the championship series against the Tigres del Licey.
He pitched for the Yaquis de Obregon – champions of the Mexican League – in the Caribbean Series. He faced Licey again on the second day of the tournament and gave up only a run into the 10th inning. That one eventually slipped away so they called on Figueroa in relief three days later against Licey.
He entered a tied game in the bottom of the ninth with one out and runners on first and third. He held them down and his team scored and then he closed it out.
“I’m not a closer,” said the 33-year-old, “but I’m always ready to do whatever is needed.”
That’s why the soft-tossing righty from Brooklyn always survives to see if the next day might be his best.
Figueroa will be in Port St. Lucie in just a few days trying to win a job with the Mets as a non-roster invitee. It’s another shot at the Major Leagues and you never know when it’s your last.
“I’m just trying to get hitters out,” he explained. “I’m trying to make sure that my family’s going to eat well, trying to make sure that I can get back to the big leagues.”
Figueroa believes his best day is still out there, but he knows his last day is out there, too.
That’s what keeps a ballplayer going.