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Monday, April 5, 2021

Rogelio Nunez played nine seasons, learned English with Michael Jordan's help; Made AA

Rogelio Nunez said a lot in this April 1991 game for single-A South Bend, just with his play, not with his words.

The speedy Nunez took the unusual batting order spot as the leadoff man, unusual because he served as the team's catcher, and he practically manufactured a first-inning run on an infield single, stolen base, a bunt and a groundout, The South Bend Tribune wrote.

"We want to take advantage of Nunez's speed," South Bend manager Tommy Thompson told The Tribune. "We did it some in spring training, and we did it last season at Utica, so it's not new to him."

Nunez, however, had problems saying other things. In his third season in the United States, the Dominican native hadn't yet learned English. And he wouldn't really learn it for another three years. He would finally do it in 1994 at AA Birmingham, with the help of a new teammate - Michael Jordan.

Nunez' career began in 1989, signed by the White Sox as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic.

Nunez started with the White Sox in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He got into 38 games, hit .226 and stole eight bases.

He moved to short-season Utica for 1990 and got into another 35 games, then South Bend and high-A Sarasota for 1991.

Nunez first made AA Birmingham in 1993. He hit .214 in 83 games. He then returned there for 1994, and met fellow new Baron, Jordon.

Jordan made a deal with Nunez: Jordan would give Nunez $100 to spell something in English, and tell Jordan something about baseball each time, Nunez told The Passaic Herald-News four years later.

"He said, 'I help you with your English, and you make money,'" Nunez recalled to The Herald-News, noting he made $2,000 from Jordan that summer.

Nunez got into 66 games that year and hit .295. He then moved to the Rangers system and AA Tulsa for 1995. He's recorded as playing two seasons in independent ball, 1997 at Bangor and 1998 at New Jersey to end his career.

Nunez has since settled in New Jersey, in Perth Amboy, where he worked in 2020 in the city's recreation department. Nunez spoke to The Bridgewater Courier News in May 2020 about his connection to Jordan, how close he got with him, and working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Rogelio has been an essential worker who has been on the front lines," Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz told The Courier News of Nunez' work during the pandemic. "Thousands of meals have been given out in the city. He was a big part of taking these meals to many families in need."
Players/Coaches Featured:3,618
Made the Majors:1,248-34.5%
Never Made Majors:2,370-65.5%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:520
10+ Seasons in the Minors:307

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