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Uribe grateful for his spot on the stage

Uribe grateful for his spot on the stage

SAN FRANCISCO -- The old Juan Uribe was young and brash. The one who greeted reporters at AT&T Park on the eve of the 2010 World Series spoke softly.

As a scrawny teenager, Uribe almost threw away his chance at signing with the Colorado Rockies because he believed he was worth more than the money they offered. The older Uribe is grateful for the wisdom that comes with age.

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Edwin Higueros -- the Giants' Spanish language broadcaster-turned-translator who accompanied Uribe on the podium during Tuesday's World Series workout -- didn't have to say much. The shortstop's message was loud and clear.

This Uribe has come a long way from his days as a wild child from the Dominican Republic. This Uribe is a championship player and a big reason that the Giants are in the World Series against the Texas Rangers.

"This is not just for me -- it's also for my family and my family name," Uribe, 31, said. "It's a legacy that people will remember and my family can be proud of. We play baseball in the Dominican to get to this point, and I'm very excited about it."

Uribe should be happy. He hit .248 with 24 home runs and 85 RBIs for San Francisco during the regular season. He hit the game-winning home run in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series to propel the Giants to a 3-2 series-clinching victory over the Phillies.

Uribe also played a key role in the run to a World Series championship for the White Sox in 2005. Among his many highlights, Uribe threw out Houston's Orlando Palmeiro for the final out of the Series.

"It's hard to compare teams, and I'm never going to say anything bad or anything that will be interpreted as bad against Chicago, because they treated me really well," Uribe said. "They gave me love in Chicago. They gave me confidence. That organization will always be special to me. It's the same situation here in San Francisco."

Uribe's professional career almost stalled before it started. As the story goes, the Rockies were holding a tryout camp for right-handed pitcher Enemencio Pacheco in Santo Domingo, D.R., when Colorado scout Jorge Posada Sr., the father of the Yankees catcher, spotted Uribe fielding ground balls.

Uribe was smooth. Some said he had the best hands on the field that day, but the rest of his scouting report was underwhelming. Uribe was too slow, he was too skinny and he could not hit for power. Much to Colorado's surprise, he also wanted more than the $5,000 the Rockies were willing to offer him to sign. Uribe and his family had mastered the art of negotiation in part because they had seen cousin Jose Uribe, then a Major League player, go through the process.

"Juan spoke no English -- Jorge and Juan's father were going back and forth in Spanish, and we were not making any progress," said Paul Egins, Colorado's director of Major League operations, who then served as the team's farm director. "Finally, I asked Juan if he wanted to play Major League Baseball. The kid said, 'Yes.' I told him, 'The money you get today will be nothing compared to what you can get if you sign and do well and make it through system.' The rest is history."

Uribe eventually signed with the Rockies as a free agent in 1997, and like many Dominican ballplayers, he struggled with the transition to life in the United States. The Rockies wanted Uribe to be a switch-hitter, but he had a tough time hitting from the left side of the plate, so the plan changed. Once again, Uribe's defense saved him. At 21, he made his big league debut in 2001 and spent three seasons with the Rockies before being traded to the White Sox in '03. Uribe's five-year run in Chicago ended when he signed with the Giants as a free agent before this season.

"Juan was such a talented young player when we had him in Colorado," said Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle, Uribe's hitting coach and manager in Colorado. "He was almost like a mustang because of his unbridled enthusiasm and actions at times, but he's calmed down and he's been a leader. I hear he's a voice of reason at times, and I'm all for that, because that's not the kid I knew at the time. He's treated the game right, and the game has treated him right back."

Uribe has also developed a reputation for treating his teammates well. Whether he's playing cards or roaming the dugout, it's hard to find Uribe without a smile on his face. He's part clown, part mentor -- but all baseball player.

"He's a great teammate and one of the guys that is always keeping us loose," Giants closer Brian Wilson said. "He's a character, and that's what we have -- a bunch of characters. It doesn't matter where you come from, because we all work together."

It's easy for this Uribe to look back at his past. He's also looking toward the future. The shortstop wants another World Series championship ring.

"I'm happy that I was able to develop and be at this point," Uribe said. "I've worked hard, but I've had a lot of help. My family and my coaches helped me a lot. There are a lot of people who have believed in me along the way."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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