FORT MYERS, Fla. — As a native of Aruba, an island in the Caribbean Sea near Venezuela's coast, Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts also is a subject of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Bogaerts is the fifth major leaguer from Aruba, following the path of Sidney Ponson, Calvin Maduro, Gene Kingsale and Radhames Dykhoff. So proud of its ballplayers was the Kingdom that Ponson, Maduro and Kingsale were decorated with an Order of Orange-Nassau, in the grade of Knight, in 2003.
Bogaerts already has won a World Series with the Red Sox. Imagine: If he can establish himself in the majors this season at age 21, Bogaerts is a good bet to become Sir Xander Jan Bogaerts.
"I already am knighted," Bogaerts said at Red Sox camp Monday.
Bow your heads!
"In 2011, we came out champs of the Baseball World Cup — the Netherlands did — so we all were knighted, even the coaches," Bogaerts said. "Yeah, it was sick."
Bogaerts was knighted by the governor of Aruba in 2011, and when the new king and queen of the Netherlands visited his island this past year, they invited him to meet with them.
"A big honor," to meet King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima, Bogaerts said.
How does it feel, being the only known knight active in the majors? And, was he given a sword?
"No, no sword. I haven’t even read all of the stuff that goes with it," Bogaerts said. "I know I got a pin. The Order of Orange-Nassau. And if you get knighted, you go down in a book with all of the other knights. It’s special."
Does the honor come with any special powers or authority, perhaps to arrest, or to commandeer a horse at any time?
"I haven’t used my special powers yet," Bogaerts said with a chuckle. "Nah, I don’t know. I’ll have to see about that one."
A World Series champion and a knight. This is bound to make baseball in Aruba — where soccer is No. 1 — more popular with the kids. Baseball already has a big following, though.
"A lot of kids play it — I was definitely one of them," Bogaerts said. "With me reaching the majors, hopefully a lot more guys are going to have that spirit to want to be a major league player. Hopefully I’m a good example."
Bogaerts' development into one of the top prospects in the majors has come quickly, despite him not playing all that much organized baseball growing up.
"I only played on the weekends, actually," Bogaerts said. "Not until I signed did it become something I did every day. If I played during the week, it was for one day. And then, weekends I’d play one or two games. That’s it."
"I knew I had a lot of scouts," Bogaerts said. "All I wanted was an opportunity."
After playing third base at the end of the season and excelling in the playoffs in 2013, Bogaerts is getting the opportunity to play shortstop this season. Red Sox manager John Farrell told him not to worry about taking grounders at third base during spring training — which might have been to bolster the confidence of Will Middlebrooks as much as anything. But it also clears the way for Bogaerts to become Boston's next great player.
And its first knight.
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