Houston Astros receiver Martín Maldonado reaches 10-year milestone

Martín Maldonado woke up on Friday to an unexpected phone call. He received an avalanche of congratulations, congratulations and gifts on a landmark morning, but Arnold Chroan’s call stood out. The former Anaheim Angels scout defended and signed Maldonado when the team selected him in the 27th round of the 2004 draft.

Chroan’s voice gave Maldonado a moment of reflection on his momentous journey. He didn’t make his major league debut until 2011, four years after the Angels initially released him. He only got a starting role in 2016, coincidentally with the Angels. Maldonado was traded four times and played for five teams. His background in baseball is anything but typical.

However, on Friday, he achieved the goal that each player has set for himself. Maldonado has reached 10 years of major league service, earning club and league praise for a milestone that means more to the players than most fans can imagine.

“(It’s) something I’ve always wanted to do, something I wanted to accomplish in my career,” Maldonado said. “Being here today, I have to thank a lot of people throughout my career who have been there for me and helped me. It’s great to reach 10 years in the big leagues.

Data compiled by the Major League Baseball Players Association reveals that less than 10% of players reach 10 years of service. When he hit the benchmark in 2020, veteran outfielder Michael Brantley pegged the figure at around six percent. Players who reach the threshold become eligible for a lifetime major league pension, which can reach around $200,000 by the time a player turns 62, according to ESPN.

Brantley, Maldonado, starter Justin Verlander, receiver Jason Castro and second baseman Jose Altuve are the only Astros to reach 10 years of service. Maldonado’s journey had few parallels with any of them. He signed for just $10,000 as a 27th round pick. He spent six full seasons in the minor leagues before making his Milwaukee debut as a 24-year-old backup.

The Astros gave Maldonado the kind of stability he’s been looking for his entire career. Houston has traded for Maldonado twice — in 2018 and 2019 — and he signed two separate contract extensions with the club to avoid another trip to free agency.

Maldonado has become one of the team’s most invaluable leaders, the man who mentors a young pitching staff and serves as a role model for the team’s plethora of young Latino talent.

“I was also one of those young guys who looked up to other players,” Maldonado said. “I admired Benito Santiago so much. You have a lot of emotion, a lot of flashbacks to all the hard work your family has done for you.

Maldonado spent most of Friday morning answering phone calls. Former Houston shortstop Carlos Correa reached out to congratulate him. Starter Lance McCullers Jr. does too. Maldonado’s wife, Janelisse, commissioned a large collage to commemorate the 10th year of service and gave it to him before Maldonado showed up at Minute Maid Park.

“The ability to get 10 years in the major leagues, a lot of people have done it with one team, others like me have done it with six different teams,” Maldonado said. “You have people who love you and people want to value you, that’s special. Few people do that.”

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