Thu May 05 10:29am EDT
The Houston Astros. The Rocket. Bill "Spaceman" Lee. Blue Moon Odom.
Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens will join all of the above when it comes to baseball players associated with the outer limits.
Only the San Francisco Giants hitting coach will have a much stronger claim on space than just a nickname. That's because Meulens is actually going to be blasted into orbit during a space expedition that's being planned by his native Curacao.
It sounds like a joke, but it's 100 percent true. As MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch notes in a recent profile of Meulens, the outgoing former player has been selected as an inaugural "astronaut" for "Space Expedition Curacao," a commercial space tourism program the Caribbean nation is trying to launch by 2014.
The first 100 flights, though, have been set aside for a group of so called "Founder Astronauts." Meulens will join three Dutch celebrities — a disc jockey, an air travel pioneer and a supermodel — on flight No. 1. [...]
"It hasn't clicked," said Meulens, who will go through intense space training classes in advance. "It still hasn't clicked yet."
Meulens, though, is cashing in the miles he accrued by becoming Curacao's first major leaguer in the mid-'80s. Even though he had only 496 professional at-bats after being a prospect for the New York Yankees, he became a national hero and players like Andruw Jones(notes), Jair Jurrjens(notes) and Randall Simon have followed him into the bigs. The nation off the coast of Venezuela is mad about baseball.
Soon Curacao will also be mad about space — if everything goes according to plan — and it will again be Meulens who's leading the charge. He'll need a new nickname, though, if he actually makes it up there — any suggestions?