In My Words: Thyago Vieira

August 9th, 2018

I am proud to be only the fifth player from Brazil to play in the big leagues. To say the odds were against me ever getting here would be an understatement.

You may have heard, but people love soccer in Brazil. Baseball is not big there. It's probably near the bottom among sports people play or follow. You see people on the streets wearing Yankees and Red Sox hats and shirts, but they don't really know what those names are all about.

I started to play when I was 9 years old. My aunt had a friend who was married to a Japanese man who knew all about baseball and invited me once to play. I didn't know anything about baseball. The first time I played, I went to the field with shorts and a short-sleeve shirt because I didn't know what to wear.

It was love at first sight. I started understanding the game the more that I got more involved, and I liked it more than soccer. But in 2005, when I was 12, they stopped playing baseball in the town where I was living, Tatui, which is about two hours from Sao Paolo. I had to start playing soccer instead. Soccer, though, wasn't my passion. I kept asking my friends if they knew of somebody who had a place where I could play baseball, but I couldn't find anyone to give me the opportunity.

I went two years without playing baseball. Finally, I met a man in Sao Paolo who invited me to play in his baseball school. I used to go there on weekends to practice. Between taking buses and trains, it was like a seven-hour commute. But it was worth it, because I got to play.

People used to make fun of me. They would say, "You always have a glove on your hand." But baseball was the sport I loved, so I didn't pay attention to what people were saying.

In Brazil, when you are 17 or 18, you start looking for a job. I went to a grocery market to submit my resume, but it was too far away. Instead, I focused on baseball to try to get better. I didn't even start to pitch until I was 17. Previously, I played third base.

I was a pretty good pitcher, and the people from the academy sent out videos of me to the scouts. The scout who oversaw South America for Seattle saw my video and signed me to a contract.

After I signed, I played in Venezuela for two years. I saw some Major League games on TV. I thought, "Man, that's really far away to reach that goal." But once I came to the United States, I knew it was possible.

I made my big-league debut last year with Seattle, and now I am with the White Sox. This organization has given me the opportunity to keep improving, to keep moving forward.

On Aug. 4 in Tampa, I recorded my first career save. It was a big moment. It was a payoff for all the work, all the things I had to do during my career to get to that point. There were a lot of people who didn't believe in me. There were people who I said I couldn't make it, but I made it. That moment there, having the ball in a save situation for a team, that was my chance to prove I could do it. That was why I celebrated the way I did, by beating my chest like King Kong. My teammates made fun of me, but I didn't have that planned out. I was just so happy in that moment.

This whole thing -- someone from Brazil playing in the big leagues -- is like a dream. It feels like I'm dreaming all the time. God gives you a plan. You don't know how it will go, but you follow the plan. Honestly, I don't know how else to explain it -- it's just God's plan.

As told to Ed Sherman