PHOENIX — Milwaukee Brewers infield prospect Mauricio Dubon thinks he was 5 or 6 years old when he started telling people he’d someday play in the major leagues.
Eighteen years later, he’s knocking on the door of making that prediction come true.
Dubon is in major league camp for the first time this spring, soaking in as much as he can in a clubhouse full of young players on a mission to make the playoffs this season. The 23-year-old has a slim chance, if any, to be with the Brewers when they open the season March 29 in San Diego, but a strong showing last year between Class AA Biloxi and Class AAA Colorado Springs has given the organization notice.
A natural shortstop, Dubon is blocked at the major league level by Orlando Arcia — also just 23 — so the Brewers moved Dubon to second base last season, filling a position of need after the organization dealt prospect Isan Diaz to Miami over the winter in the Christian Yelich trade.
“You see the joy of the game; it definitely shines through with a kid like him,” manager Craig Counsell said. “But he carries with him, not a burden, but a responsibility, of being from a country that has never produced a major league baseball player. It’s very important to him.”
Reaching the big leagues means a lot to Dubon not just because of his childhood dreams but also because of where those dreams developed. He was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and can become the first native Honduran to play in the majors.
“It’s who I am,” Dubon said. “When I see the Honduran flag at a baseball field ... I know it’s because of me. That’s something that I take great pride in.”
Although well behind soccer, baseball is popular in the nation and Dubon learned the game from his father and older brother. When he was 15, missionaries visiting from the United States discovered him and offered to bring him back to the United States to further his education — in the classroom and on the baseball diamond.
“That was something where a one-week period changed my whole life,” Dubon said. “My mom, without really thinking about it, she just said, ‘Yeah, just go. Leave.’ She kind of knew that was the best for me.”
He was placed with a host family in Sacramento, California, and had to quickly adapt to the change in culture as well as learning a new language. Music helped that process, he said, and while he admits it was overwhelming at first, he eventually settled in, did well in school and played well enough that he was taken in the 26th round of the MLB draft by Boston.
Three years later, he was headed to the Brewers as part of the trade that brought Travis Shaw to Milwaukee in exchange for reliever Tyler Thornburg.
Dubon began the season with Biloxi, where he hit .276 with two home runs and 24 RBIs in 71 games. He earned a promotion at midseason to Colorado Springs, where he hit .272 with six home runs and 33 RBIs.
The taste of big league life has given Dubon an opportunity to learn about what it takes to not only make it at that level, but remain there for the long haul. He’s done his best to be a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as he can, especially in terms of being prepared each day, but knows that eventually, he’ll head over to the minor league side of Maryvale Baseball Park to continue his journey.
Still, he also knows that if he does things right, his chance is a phone call away.
“I just try to take it day by day,” Dubon said.
When the call does finally come, and he steps onto a major league field for the first time, he knows an entire nation will be watching him as the first Honduran player to make it to baseball’s highest level.
“Hopefully, I’m not the last one, either,” Dubon said.