If you’ve ever watched Willson Contreras play baseball, one thing is clear: he wears his heart on his sleeve. From vibrant fist-pumps, to pimped home run shots, to throwing the ball approximately 150 MPH to first on bunts and dropped third strikes, there is nothing Contreras does on a baseball field under 110% effort. On June 22nd in Miami, Willson Contreras took wearing his heart on his sleeve to a more literal level, debuting a new arm sleeve featuring the flag of his homeland, Venezuela, plastered across it. Considering the turmoil back home, this was a symbolic gesture of solidarity from Contreras. If you are not up to date on world news, here’s a quick synopsis of the situation in Venezuela: The country’s economy was heavily reliant on oil, when oil prices tanked last year, the country’s economy did too, as did its government. Since, there has been endless riots, violence, and food shortages, among other tragedies, in the nation. It has gotten so bad that last year Contreras bought his parents a home in a neighborhood with security guards and has their groceries delivered to the door. According to Contreras: “In Venezuela, there’s nowhere where you know you’re going to be safe, like, flip a coin.”
That brings us back to the sleeve. More appropriately, what Willson has done since putting it on. In the 21 games since he first donned the colorful sleeve, Contreras has batted: .333/.405/.667 with a 1.071 OPS, 7 home runs, 16 RBIs and 2 stolen bases. Outstanding numbers that have helped him become the 2nd most valuable catcher in baseball (based on WAR) this season. So is the sleeve good luck, or has Willson just hit a hot streak? Hard to tell, but I doubt we’ll be seeing Contreras take it off anytime soon.