Statia leaving mark on world, Angels

Statia leaving mark on world

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Hainley Statia is a young man who gets around -- at shortstop, on the basepaths and in life.

Born and raised in Curacao, part of the Netherlands Antilles off the north coast of Venezuela, Statia already has racked up some impressive international credentials in Team Netherlands' colors.

In the Euro Cup in Spain last September, he helped the Dutchmen carve out a spot in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where he hopes to serve as their shortstop. At 20, Statia had joined Andruw Jones in the Netherlands' lineup in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006.

By age 7 in Curacao, Statia was conversant in four languages -- Papiamento (Caribbean Creole), Dutch, English and Spanish. At 22, he has carried a confident, mature manner and smooth style reminiscent of role model Omar Vizquel into his second Major League camp with the Angels.

When Angels manager Mike Scioscia talks about his young shortstops, Statia now is included in the conversation with Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis and Brandon Wood.

After Statia made two superb plays from the hole in a victory over the Padres at Peoria Sports Complex on Tuesday, Scioscia once again raved about his development.

"When you start to look at guys and get a more definitive depth chart," Scioscia said, "he's at the point this spring where he's jumped up defensively with anybody we have in camp. He's got great hands and seems to be where the ball is hit. He's still growing as a player, but on the defensive end he stacks up with Aybar, Izturis, Brandon Wood -- anybody we have.

"Offensively, he's a low-strikeout guy who has hit around .280, and he's a terrific baserunner. He's got a chance to be a good offensive player."

Statia figures to open the season at Double-A Arkansas, but he's aiming higher.

"I'm trying to make Triple-A [Salt Lake]," Statia said. "I'm shooting for the best. It's their decision. I'll just do what I have to do on the field."

Leaving his homeland for Florida in his teens, Statia was snagged by the Angels out of Lake Worth High School in the ninth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, launching his professional career in 2005.

In three Minor League seasons, Statia batted .290 with a .356 on-base percentage, while using his multilingual skills to help young Spanish-speaking teammates with the transition. He's not known for his blazing speed, but he has stolen 71 bases in 355 games.

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Statia's glove, maturity and intelligence are what distinguish this 5-foot-11, 162-pound athlete. In November, he was chosen the best defensive player in the World Cup in Taiwan, a competition that included Team USA and Cuba.

"This is a great experience, being in big league camp," Statia said. "It's an opportunity to be around the guys, learning the way they go about the game and what it takes to get here.

"Baseball is a mental game -- how you position yourself, what pitchers are going to do to you in situations."

Even striking out against the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy was an enlightening experience for Statia.

"I went to 3-2 [in the count], and he got me with a slider," Statia said. "Now I know what Jake Peavy throws, what to expect."

The Angels invited Statia to the Major League camp last spring after he'd played a total of 220 professional games. One of the benefits for Statia was observing Orlando Cabrera, the veteran shortstop sent to the White Sox in November for Jon Garland.

"He's a great player -- and he's one guy who really works on his mental game," Statia said. "He communicated with me, gave me tips.

"Playing in the Freeway Series for the first time at Dodger Stadium, I asked him what I should expect. He said, `Don't look up at the crowd -- you'll get dizzy.' He told me it's the same game, just more people watching. I didn't get any hits, but I hit a couple of balls hard and got to face [Brett] Tomko, [Brad] Penny, [Rudy] Seanez and the closer [Takashi] Saito."

Statia said he has been imagining this life since he grew up admiring Ozzie Smith and Vizquel, the Wizard's successor as the master at shortstop.

His countryman, Jones, has become a friend, and Statia hopes to play alongside him again in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In his one start in the inaugural Classic, against Panama, Statia had two hits and two RBIs.

Living in the moment, he is focused on making plays and progress while impressing the decision-makers. Down the road, Beijing and the Summer Games are what he hopes are the next destinations for Statia, a young man on the move.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.