Dylan Unsworth has always dreamed of playing professional baseball. Regardless of how that dream pans out, though, he's thinking even bigger when it comes to the sport's popularity in his home country.
Unsworth, who pitches for the Everett AquaSox, hails from South Africa and is the first player from his club back home to be selected to play professional baseball in the United States. At age 19, he currently leads the Northwest League with five wins and is second in the league with 38 strikeouts. In eight games started this season, he has a 5-0 record and a 3.50 ERA.
As he continues to work on his professional career, he can't help but think about helping the sport grow back home. Though Unsworth remains focused professionally, sometimes it's tough to not think about what the future holds and how he could use his current experiences for everyone's benefit.
"When I got back home, that's one of the biggest things that I'd like to give back," he said. "I'd just like to be able to give it back and help as many guys as I can."
Unsworth developed a love for the sport after his father started coaching his baseball team at a young age. At 16, he was selected to attend the MLB Academy in Italy, where he was first approached by scouts from the Seattle Mariners.
After a successful stint pitching for the South African national team in Barcelona, Unsworth arrived home to find the Mariners waiting for him with his family. From there, he signed and headed to the United States to begin his professional career.
"I'm starting to get on the right track, learning how to pitch, learning how to read hitters," he said. "It's just getting to know more about pitching and working on different pitches to learn what my strength is."
Unfortunately, his family hasn't had a chance to see him yet, but the adjustment has gradually gotten easier for him. Unsworth gets to check in with them often via cell phone, and the meaningful relationships he has built amongst his teammates has also helped him cope with the transition.
He said he'd like to fly his family out someday, though the cost of travel alone would require a higher salary than what he makes now. The thought of making it to the Majors and having the ability to pay for their travel expenses is one that is hard for him to ignore, and would mean a lot to him for his family to see him pitch.
"Every time somebody talks to me about how would it feel to play in the Majors, I start getting goose bumps," Unsworth said. "It would be amazing."
If that never pans out, though, he knows exactly how he can continue to build off this experience.
"We have some good players in South Africa that can play baseball," he said. "It would be great if we could get more coaching and get it more popular there."
Impressive Stuff: Boise RHP Ian Dickson threw six no-hit innings Tuesday, retiring the first 15 batters he faced before an error allowed the Yakima Bears to reach base. Dickson struck out four in the game, and earned his second win of the season in the process.
Eat your Veggies!: PETA ranked PK Park, home of the Eugene Emeralds, as the seventh most vegetarian-friendly Minor League ballpark in the country. This is the first time PK Park has been included in PETA's Top-10 list.
Who's Hot/Not: Spokane OF Royce Bolinger has hit .444 (16-for-36) with 10 RBIs and three runs scored in his last nine games. Tri-City RHP Ryan Arrowood has struck out 14 hitters while walking just three in his last 9 2/3 innings pitched, spanning four games. He has allowed just one earned run over that span. Vancouver OF Carlos Ramirez his hit .077 (2-for-26) in his last seven games.
He said it: "Sosa came up big, putting the ball into play. We got the 'W.' That's what counts." -- Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio to the Tri-City Herald regarding Francisco Sosa's walk-off sacrifice fly on Wednesday.