Just before the start of Monday night's game against the Cubs, the Pirates announced that they were calling up rookie pitcher Dovydas Neverauskas to take the roster spot of Adam Frazier, who went to the DL. Neverauskas made history while throwing two innings of one-run ball, becoming the first person born and raised in Lithuania to make the Major Leagues.
Neverauskas hails from Vilnius, Lithuania, where his father, Virmidas, encouraged him to learn and play the game despite its relative anonymity. He attended European Academy baseball camps in Italy and was signed by the Pirates in July 2009 -- another first for a Lithuanian-born player.
After his debut on Monday, Neverauskas talked to MLB.com's Adam Berry about what it meant for his home country. "Better opportunities. Just to see that baseball can be played in Lithuania, somebody can follow in my footsteps," he said.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander even spent some time throwing to hitters in Lithuania a few years back.
By reaching the Majors, Neverauskas is sailing on mostly uncharted waters for Eastern Europeans. The only other Lithuanian to play Major League Baseball was outfielder Joe Zapustas, who was raised in Boston and played just two MLB games for the Philadelphia A's back in 1933.
Aside from Lithuania, there have been four players from Poland, four from Austria, three from the Czech Republic, two from Slovakia, and eight from Russia. Only two of those 21 players appeared within the last 50 years (Polish-born Moe Drabowsky and Russian-born Victor Cole).
Now however, Neverauskas joins an impressive fraternity of current European-born big leaguers that includes Germany's Max Kepler and the Netherlands' Didi Gregorius. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle made sure that the ball from his first pitch was taken out of play too, preserving this token of baseball history for Lithuania. "This is the moment I waited [for]. I worked for it. It happened, and I was really excited," Neverauskas said.
It's definitely a big step for the sport in Lithuania, and one that will hopefully have ripple effects for generations of ballplayers to come.