Miguel Batista is regarded as one of the more interesting individuals to don a major-league uniform. Throughout his 18-year pitching career, Batista’s travels took him to 11 different teams, for which he toiled as both a starter and a reliever. A deeply philosophical person, he stood out from the average ballplayer with his unquenchable desire to find something bigger and more fulfilling than baseball. Batista’s athletic prowess brought him considerable wealth, but his outside interests brought out a new level of understanding the world beyond the ballpark. His love for the written word led him to publish a book of poetry in Spanish titled Sentimientos en Blanco y Negro (Feelings in Black and White) and a novel, The Avenger of Blood, a thriller about a serial killer.
His many passions off the mound didn’t exactly win over many of his teammates throughout his major-league career. And his career stats indicate a pitcher who was inconsistent. But Miguel Batista would like to be remembered as a decent human being who just happened to play major-league baseball. “When I die, I don’t want people to remember me by saying, ‘He was a great baseball player,’ “Batista says. “I want them to say, ‘He was a great man. A great human being.’ That’s how I want to be remembered.”1
Miguel Descartes Batista Jerez was born on February 19, 1971, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Many of the young men who grew up in the Dominican Republic had dreams of playing major-league baseball, but Batista’s first love was the written word. His grandmother instilled in him the maxim that the greatest investment in the world was a book. As an adolescent, Miguel scribbled thoughts into a journal to compensate for having no close friends while growing up in San Pedro de Macoris. “Writing started for me being a loner,” Batista said in 2006. “As a kid, I had a problem. Kids my age didn’t want to talk about things that interested me. That pushed me away. I started writing when I was 12 or 13.”2By his mid-teens, he started to write poetry but mostly kept it to himself.
Batista didn’t start playing baseball until he was 15. He developed an eye-popping fastball but had trouble controlling it. Two weeks after his 17th birthday, he had an encounter that would change his life. Israel Frias, a minor-league catcher with the Baltimore Orioles, told him of a tryout camp in nearby Ingenio Santa Fe. Of the 60 players at the tryout, Batista was the only pitcher,3 and he was the only person to sign a deal; he inked a contract with the Montreal Expos.
The Expos sent Batista to their Rookie League team in the Gulf Coast League. In his second year, 1991, Batista posted an 11-5 record for Rockford of the Class-A Midwest League. After the season he was snapped up by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule 5 draft. Batista opened the 1992 season with the Pirates and made his major-league debut on April 11, giving up a two-run home run in relief to Ruben Amaro as the Pirates lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-4. Twelve days later, he was returned to the Expos. Before his next major-league appearance, Batista spent the next four years honing his craft in the minor leagues.
Batista spent the rest of the 1992 season with West Palm Beach of the Class-A Florida State League (7-7, 3.79 ERA). With Harrisburg of the Double-A Eastern League in 1993, he posted a 13-5 mark with an ERA of 4.34. In 1994 he pitched in only three games, and after the season he was released by the Expos. Batista signed with the Florida Marlins and in 1995 at Triple-A Charlotte, he began to be used more as a reliever than a starter. In August 1996 Batista was called up by the Marlins and pitched out the bullpen in nine games. After the season Batista was sent to the Chicago Cubs on waivers.
Batista began the 1997 campaign with Triple-A Iowa. His command improved significantly, and the Cubs called him up in August. His first appearance for the Cubs was a start on August 11 in which he gave up two runs in seven innings as the Cubs lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 2-1.
Batista’s next four appearances were out of the bullpen. He got five more opportunities to earn a spot in the Cubs rotation, but an 0-4 record with an 8.72 ERA in those five starts nixed that idea. After the season the Cubs traded Batista to the Montreal Expos for left fielder Henry Rodriguez.
For the next two seasons, Batista worked mostly out of the bullpen, but Expos manager Felipe Alou gave him some starts as well. His most notable victory came on April 14, 1999, when he pitched a complete game against the Milwaukee Brewers, striking out six and walking none as the Expos cruised to a 15-1 victory.
Three weeks into the 2000 season, the Expos sent Batista to the Kansas City Royals for right-hander Brad Rigby. Playing for his fifth club, Batista continued to struggle with his control. In his only season with the Royals he posted a 2-6 mark with a 7.74 ERA and a WHIP of 1.754. Combined with his 14.04 early-season ERA with Montreal, his ERA for the entire season ballooned to 8.54 and his WHIP increased to 1.867.
Released by the Royals after the season, Batista signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks were looking to make a return trip to the postseason after winning the NL West division crown in 2000. With Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling powering Arizona’s pitching staff, it appeared that Batista would mostly be relegated to the same duties he’d become used to since he arrived in the big leagues.
The 2001 season was a dream year for the four-year-old Diamondbacks franchise. They defeated the New York Yankees in a dramatic seven-game World Series. Batista had the best season of his career, going 11-8 with an ERA of 3.36. His WHIP was 1.242 and his pitching WAR was 2.6. Batista started 18 games, going 6-6. Opponents hit .226 against him. He made the most of his first trip to the postseason. In Game Three of the NLDS, he struck out four Cardinals in six innings of a 5-3 victory. Batista started the fifth game of the World Series and said the Yankees mystique didn’t faze him one bit. “I don’t care if they’re the angels of Jesus Christ,” Batista said. “I still have to go out there, do my job and beat them.”4
The decision to hand the ball to Batista for an important Game Five showdown was a gutsy move by Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly. Diamondbacks ace Curt Schilling would have been a logical choice, but he had been moved up to start Game Four. However, Brenly was confident that Batista could cope with the pressure. “I hate to put anybody in that position, but Miguel has shown throughout the course of the season that he is not your regular run-of-the-mill pitcher,” Brenly said. “He is able to handle things because of his resilient arm and resilient mind. He is able to pitch one day, come back and pitch two days in relief after that. It’s an amazing quality I have not seen recently in any pitcher in the major leagues.”5
Batista came through with a 7⅔-inning performance in which he struck out six, walked five, and allowed no runs. However, the Diamondbacks couldn’t hold the 2-0 lead as they lost in extra innings.
Batista stood out among his teammates by being an iconoclast. He was likely the only big-league player to have a framed photo of Albert Einstein sitting on the top shelf of his locker. And while many players enjoyed, fishing, hunting, and playing golf, Batista enjoyed reading, writing, and going to museums. He enjoyed the game and the opportunities it provided him, but the search for truth in this complicated world was extremely important to him. “I have never been around anybody like Miguel Batista,” Brenly said. “He is a refreshing breath of fresh air. Not that this a criticism, but if you are not talking about fantasy football or baseball or girls, most ballplayers don’t have much to say. Miguel has got opinions on everything. He’s extremely well read, extremely well spoken and a very thoughtful, caring human being. He’s a great pitcher on top of it.”6
In 2002, his second season with the Diamondbacks, Batista pitched in 36 games (29 starts) and finished the regular season with an 8-9 record, with a 4.29 ERA. In the NLDS, as the Diamondbacks were swept by the Cardinals, Batista started the deciding Game Three, giving up four runs in 3⅔ innings. The following year, The Sporting News named Batista its number one good guy in major-league baseball for his numerous charitable causes, specifically his $50,000 contribution to build a baseball field on tribal land in Arizona.7 He also began an education-oriented program called Imagine That. Its objective was to encourage fourth- through sixth-graders to use their creativity to develop new ideas.
On the pitching mound, Batista finished the 2003 season tied for the Diamondbacks team lead in wins with 10. His WAR was 4.3, the best of his career. Batista’s most notable pitching performance was an 11-strikeout effort in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Marlins on July 28.
Batista was a free agent after the season and signed a three-year, $13.1 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. In his first season, 2004, Batista pitched poorly and lost his job as a starter toward the end of the season. In 2005 he became the Blue Jays’ closer and had 31 saves, but also eight blown saves. After the season it was back to the Diamondbacks, as the Blue Jays traded Batista and Orlando Hudson to Arizona for Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos.
With the Diamondbacks, Batista returned to the starting rotation. In his first start, he struck out 11 in seven innings on the third game of the season, as Arizona defeated the Colorado Rockies, 12-5. On September 12, as Batista made an unsuccessful start against the Washington Nationals, the English version of his novel The Avenger of Blood was published. The thriller centered on a 14-year-old boy accused of committing a series of brutal slayings. (It got mixed reviews.)
After the season the Diamondbacks offered Batista arbitration, but were not willing to commit to a long-term deal with the free-agent right-hander. On December 14, 2006, he signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the Seattle Mariners. In 2007, his first year with his new club, Batista won a career-high 16 victories. In 2008, however, he had one of the worst seasons of his career, posting a 4-14 mark with a 6.26 ERA. The next season the Mariners moved him to long relief. While Batista was adjusting to his new role, he was earning praise for his humanitarian work as the club recognized him as its candidate for the Roberto Clemente award.
Released by the Mariners after the season, Batista inked a minor-league contract with the Washington Nationals, and won a bullpen job in spring training. He made one start, though: On July 27, with just 10 minutes to go before the first pitch, Batista was called to pitch for injured right-hander Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals faithful peppered Batista with a chorus of boos as they hoped to see their talented ace. But Batista turned those jeers into cheers as he tossed five scoreless innings, striking out six and walking just one as the Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves, 3-0.
Batista understood the fans’ frustration. “Imagine if you go to see Miss Universe, then you end up having Miss Iowa, you might get those kind of boos,” Batista said. “But it’s okay. They have to understand that as an organization we have to make sure that the kid is fine. You don’t want to expose him out there and screw up his future.”8
Batista’s attempt at self-deprecating humor, offended Miss Iowa, Katherine Connors, who responded, “I know I can throw a pitch or two! The question is, can Miguel Batista walk the runway in a swimsuit?”9
Batista apologized to her and was her batterymate as she threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Nationals game a couple of days later.
A free agent again after the season, Batista signed with the St. Louis Cardinals for 2011. He was released on June 22 after pitching only 29⅓ innings. The New York Mets picked him up, and Batista won his 100th major-league game in the majors on September 1, getting the 7-5 victory in a start against the Marlins. In the final game of the season, Batista started against Cincinnati and pitched a two-hit shutout. The 2012 season was not so successful: After posting a 1-3 mark with a 4.82 ERA, he was released by the Mets on July 26.
The next day Batista signed with the Atlanta Braves. After pitching in five games out of the bullpen, he was released. On January 19, 2013, Batista, now 41, signed a minor-league deal with the Colorado Rockies, but was released in spring training.
A year later, on April 9, 2013, Batista, in hopes of resuming his big-league career, signed a minor-league contract with the Blue Jays and was assigned to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. He was released by the Jays on May 21. Until 2015 he pitched a few games in the Dominican Winter League.
Batista’s career was filled with ups and downs. He posted a 102-115 record with a 4.48 ERA. One might argue, though, that a true measure of his success was what he accomplished off the field. In 2012 the Miguel Batista Foundation celebrated its 10th anniversary. The objective of the foundation is to promote both youth baseball and education in the Dominican Republic.
Last revised: October 29, 2022
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org.
1 Geoff Baker, “M’s Batista Striking the Right Notes,” Seattle Times, August 17, 2007. https://www.seattletimes.com/sports/mariners/ms-batista-striking-the-right-notes/
2 “Batista Shows He Has the Write Stuff,” Seattle Times, October 22, 2006. seattletimes.com/sports/baseball-notebook-batista-shows-he-has-the-write-stuff/.
3 Gustavo Olivo Pena, Acento.com. “Miguel Batista: ‘Mi abuela decia que un libro era la mejor inversion del mundo,’” August 17, 2011. acento.com.do/2011/actualidad/6142-miguel-batista-mi-abuela-decia-que-un-libro-era-la-mejor-inversion-del-mundo/
4 Chris Baldwin, “Yanks’ Aura Means Nothing to Batista,” Daily Record (Morristown, New Jersey), November 1, 2001: D7.
5 David Heuschkel, “For Batista It’s a No-Brainer,” Hartford Courant, November 1, 2001: C5.
7 The Sporting News, July 7, 2003: 13.
8 Gene Wang, “Miguel Batista Turns Boos to Cheers as the Washington Nationals Beat the Atlanta Braves, 3-0,” Washington Post,” July 29, 2010, washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/27/AR2010072706093.html.
9 Jim Caple, “Miss Iowa USA Sounds Off About Miguel Batista,” ESPN.com, espn.com/espn/page2/index/_/id/5420051.
Miguel Jerez Batista Decartes
February 19, 1971 at Santo Domingo, Distrito Nacional (D.R.)
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