Abraham Toro brings multiple skill sets and an interesting background to the Brewers
PHOENIX -- A number of Canadian ballplayers have passed through the Milwaukee Brewers organization over the years.
But it's safe to say their latest addition, Abraham Toro, has one of the more interesting backstories.
Toro's family moved from Venezuela to Canada in the mid-1990s, with his parents searching for a better way of life for themselves as well as their son and daughter. Toro, born in 1996, was the youngest and the lone native Canadian in the unit.
The Toros settled in Longueuil, Quebec, located directly across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal. And as Toro grew older, he naturally gave the Canadian national sport, hockey, a try.
"l'm from a family that's from Venezuela, so baseball's in our blood," Toro said. "I actually did try hockey but I was never any good. I can skate, but I couldn't skate backwards."
Toro eventually ditched the rink for the diamond and by age 15 transferred to a high school in suburban Montreal that had indoor facilities for baseball.
Abraham Toro talks about his unique upbringing around Montreal, Quebec, Canada as a youth. And, of course, hockey: pic.twitter.com/aKgksLuMbk
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) February 26, 2023
After graduating, Toro attended Vanier College in Montreal before taking his talents south to the United States -- Seminole (Okla.) State College, specifically.
He blew up in his one season there, hitting .439 with 20 home runs and 86 runs batted in over 55 games, a body of work impressive enough to get him drafted in the fifth round by the Houston Astros in 2016.
In 2019, Toro made his major-league debut with the Astros and on Sept. 1, in just his seventh career game, hit a two-out, two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to break a 0-0 tie against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Then, in the bottom half of the inning, his play at third base finished off Justin Verlander's no-hitter to cap an incredible highlight for Toro in his native country.
Toro bounced back and forth between the minors and majors with the Astros into 2021 before he was traded to the Seattle Mariners in a four-player deal in late July.
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Toro wasn't expected to be traded from the Mariners but ready to help Brewers reach playoffs
His time in the Northwest brought mixed results.
After hitting .252 with a .695 OPS in 60 games to close out 2021, Toro hit just .185 with 10 homers and 35 RBI in 2022 while playing in a career-high 109 games as the Mariners surged into the postseason for the first time since 2001.
Then in December, he and Jesse Winker were traded to the Brewers in exchange for Kolten Wong.
"I mean, I was a little bit surprised. I wasn't expecting it," Toro said. "But I'm really glad to be here. A really good team and a chance to make the playoffs again."
Toro can play multiple positions and speak multiple languages
The 26-year-old's game is seemingly tailor-made for the Brewers in that he's a switch-hitter -- he's a natural right-handed hitter -- who has logged time at third, second and first base and also has the ability to play the outfield in a pinch.
But Toro, who signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal in January to avoid arbitration, is one of a number of utility men in Brewers camp this spring along with returnees Mike Brosseau and Keston Hiura, another newcomer in Owen Miller and prospect Brice Turang.
Working against Toro is the fact he has a minor-league option remaining, giving Milwaukee the ability to send him to Class AAA Nashville if that helps the initial roster math heading into opening day.
"Right now I'm just trying to make the team first," Toro said. "I'm trying to make the team, trying to show that I can play everywhere and hopefully I can help the team in any way they they ask."
It's going to be the glove first -- particularly at third (his natural position) and second base -- that the Brewers will be looking for, along with the ability to pop the occasional homer (although almost all Toro's power comes from the right side).
"Abraham got to the big leagues at a really young age (22)," manager Craig Counsell said. "He was kind of cast as a utility guy almost immediately and that makes me think of Hernán Pérez a little bit. It makes me think instinctual player because they trusted him to do that job in a part-time role on a good team.
"That's kind of what I'm thinking going in, and then we'll get to know Abraham and see what happens."
Milwaukee's clubhouse certainly isn't unusual in that it has a number of players who speak both English and Spanish.
But Toro separates himself with the ability to speak French, which he said was spoken along with Spanish in his home throughout his youth.
Abraham speaks Spanish, French and English, and is also starting to learn a fourth language: pic.twitter.com/X9RoCucAlh
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) February 26, 2023
"Oh, it was it was easy for me to learn French because when I was going to school, kindergarten and everything was in (French)," he said. "English was actually the last one. So, you learn in school. You still have people that speak English, but I would say around 16 I was fluent in English."
Toro is one of several Brewers players competing in the World Baseball Classic
And to Toro's credit, he's now in the beginning stages of trying to learn a fourth language -- Italian.
"I'm trying to learn Italian but I'm not that good yet," he said. "Just because it's similar to Spanish, there's some things I can pick up even without knowing the language."
Like a number of his new teammates, Toro will be shipping out of camp soon to take part in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. But he won't have to travel far, as Team Canada is one of five teams playing locally at Chase Field.
"When I was young, I always wanted to do the U-18 national team," Toro said. "I didn't have the chance to make that team so when they called me for this, it was it was a no-brainer."
Among Toro's Team Canada teammates will be Freddie Freeman, Brewers division rival Tyler O'Neill of the St. Louis Cardinals and former Brewers closer John Axford.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Abraham Toro brings multiple skill sets, interesting background to Brewers