Mets honor Virgil, 1st Dominican-born MLB player

September 26th, 2018

NEW YORK -- As the Mets and Major League Baseball continue to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, the organization honored Osvaldo (Ozzie) Jose Virgil Sr., 86, by appointing him as an honorary coach for Wednesday night's game against the Braves.
The former Major Leaguer dressed in a full Mets uniform and held a news conference prior to the game. He also gave some pointers during the Mets' batting practice, exchanged lineup cards and joined the team in the dugout for the entirety of the game.
At the age of 15, Virgil moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic and attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. The move to America proved to be beneficial, as Virgil became the first Dominican-born player to appear in the Major Leagues when he made his debut on Sept. 23, 1956, for the New York Giants. The versatile Virgil played third base, catcher and outfield for six teams -- the Giants in New York and San Francisco, Tigers, Kansas City Athletics, Orioles and Pirates -- over the course of nine seasons in the Majors.
When Virgil began playing, his signing bonus was $300, and he said he had to be an everyday player with the team before he would even be paid. But he loved the game, and he still does. The 86-year-old has worked in the Mets organization for the last 11 years, overseeing the catching instruction for the Mets' Dominican Summer League teams.
"If you love the game as much as I do," Virgil said, "today the best sound that I [hear] that keeps me alive is the bat hitting the ball."
Virgil's son, Ozzie Jr., was a two-time All-Star who played 11 seasons in the Majors for three teams.