Madris makes history as MLB's first player from Palau

June 21st, 2022

As Major League debuts go, it's hard to beat a three-hit night. Tack on a couple of RBIs and you have a strong start to your career.

That was what accomplished in his first day in the Majors, all while flying somewhat under the radar in the Pirates' 12-1 win over the Cubs on Monday night. Through no fault of his own, not much attention was called to his promotion because he was called up alongside Oneil Cruz, the club's No. 3 prospect, who fans have been anxious to see return to Pittsburgh since he was sent back to Triple-A at the end of Spring Training.

Despite the relative lack of fanfare, Madris' debut is of historic significance. While the 26-year-old outfielder is one of many Major Leaguers to have grown up in the Las Vegas metro area, his father's side of the family hails from Palau, a small island nation in the West Pacific just a fraction of the size of Rhode Island.

That Madris is the first Palauan player in the history of a nearly 150-year-old league is hardly a reflection of the passion the country has for baseball, the introduction of which is generally traced back to the Japanese occupation of the country in the early-to-mid 20th century. Baseball is so dominant an aspect of the national culture that despite having a population of fewer than 20,000 residents, Palau has both a professional league, the Palau Major League, and a national baseball team that has excelled in regional competition. Despite all of this, Madris is the first baseball player of Palauan descent to make it to the Majors.

None of this is lost on Madris, who was selected by the Pirates in the ninth round of the 2017 Draft.

"I've had a lot of support from the Palauan people over the course of my career so far," Madris said following his debut. "They've really bought into me, and I've really bought into the culture and how proud it makes my father. So I'm just trying to make him proud every day, and if I make him proud, I know I'm making the Palauan people proud."