Brewers prospect Orimoloye rising fast

Outfielder hoping to become first African-born player in Majors

Brewers prospect Orimoloye rising fast

PHOENIX -- Brewers prospect Demi Orimoloye has an opportunity to become the first African-born player to reach the Major Leagues -- and if it weren't for his childhood best friend, it's likely that Orimoloye never would have given baseball a shot.

The Brewers' 20th-ranked prospect was born in Nigeria, but Orimoloye moved to Canada when he was just 10 months old, and he grew up playing volleyball and basketball, in addition to running track.

Baseball simply wasn't in the equation, but that changed when Orimoloye turned 10 years old.

"My mom asked me to play, and I said, 'I don't want to play baseball,'" Orimoloye said. "But my best friend, [Justin Silverwood], his mom signed him up, and I've played it ever since."

As a 10-year-old, Orimoloye had nothing against the game of baseball. He just wasn't familiar with the sport. However, like most 10-year-olds, Orimoloye wanted to do what his friend was doing, so he gave it a try.

"After I started to play, I realized I loved it," Orimoloye said.

Natural athleticism helped Orimoloye make a name for himself right away. Then, when he turned 15, he started playing for the Canadian National Team, where he fine tuned his game.

"He's an athlete," Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada's director of national teams, said. "He's a kid that would translate into football, into basketball, into other sports without a doubt. Fortunately, we were able to keep him into baseball."

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound outfielder has all of the necessary physical tools, but because Orimoloye hasn't been playing baseball for long, he's still a bit rough around the edges.

"Outstanding makeup and character," Hamilton said. "He's what you would call a real toolsy, athletic player with a lot of upside. He's got tremendous athleticism. If he puts it all together, he has all the tools."

The 18-year-old had the chance to polish those skills and refine his game at the University of Oregon, but after the Brewers selected Orimoloye in the fourth round of the 2015 Draft, he opted to turn pro.

"I knew, deep in my heart, pro ball is what I wanted to do," Orimoloye said. "I want to be a professional baseball player."

So far, it looks like a good decision, as Orimoloye's career is off to a strong start.

Orimoloye is hitting .292 through 33 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League, and he has already registered six three-hit games -- including a two-homer, seven-RBI game on June 22.

Orimoloye's size and strength give him quite a presence at the plate, and his teammate and Brewers first-round selection Trent Clark has been impressed.

"Really, really talented player," Clark, the Brewers' third-ranked prospect, said. "He has every tool, it's very raw. He can hit the ball a mile. It's fun watching him take it off the tee. He has the ability to play defense. Everything he can do is fun to watch and fun to be around."

Orimoloye's career is still in its earliest stages, but if he is able to make it to the Major Leagues, it would be a significant accomplishment for a number of reasons.

"Anytime a Canadian makes it to the Major Leagues, it really has an impact on the game domestically and in Canada," Hamilton said. "In Canada, it's certainly a popular sport, but hockey is the sport nationally. The more and more baseball players that establish themselves in the Majors, the better it is for young kids to take interest."

Orimoloye agrees.

"It would mean a lot to me and my family -- all the hard work I've put in, and they've supported me [throughout]," Orimoloye said. "It would be big for the sport of baseball in Canada."

Being the first African-born player would also be a great accomplishment.

"That's a big thing, too," Orimoloye said. "I'm excited to hopefully be the first one."

William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.