The Cleveland Indians boast a talented group of minor leaguers that is ranked in the top half of all farm system by most analysts. Some writers place the Indians in the top five, even after Francisco Lindor's promotion to the Show. Die-hard Tribe fans twitch with excitement at the mention of Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, and Bobby Bradley, anticipating that next sweet bump of young talent. However, one young prospect is rarely mentioned in the same breath as these other MLB hopefuls: Sicnarf Loopstok.
The most obvious reason is that the other players I mentioned are better at playing baseball. While he might not be the toolsiest player, Sicnarf has the rare sixth tool: a compelling and interesting backstory.
Sicnarf grew up in Aruba, a Dutch Caribbean island northeast of the Bay of Venezuela. Should he ever get The Call, Sicnarf will be the sixth Aruban to ever play Major League Baseball. The others include Sidney Ponson, Calvin Maduro, Gene Kingsdale, Radhames Dykhoff*, and Xander Bogaerts. While this may not match the pedigree of certain other Caribbean islands, it is impressive for a nation with roughly the same number of inhabitants as Erie, PA.
*For just a moment, imagine this name as a spell in Harry Potter. "How unfortunate, Hagrid. First your wand is snapped in half, and now..."
The family name "Loopstok" literally translates to "Walking cane" in English. I promise you that this is true, even though it sounds like the kind of lie I told in geometry class to get the attention of the blonde in front of me. Before you begin pondering the various origin stories of the name "Sicnarf", know that it is simply his father's name spelled backwards. To think, my own father gave me his name as a middle name, which is not nearly as creative. I think I look like a Luap, don't you?
Sicnarf's unusual name netted him the Moniker Mayhem title in 2013, edging out opponents such as Stryker Trahan, Damien Magnifico, and Storm Throne.* If you've previously heard of Sicnarf, this is most likely the reason why.
*I'm sure he's a wonderful human being, but with a name like Storm Throne, are we certain that he didn't fall out of a self-published fantasy novel?
Our picture of the man grows more complex still when we learn that he speaks five languages, which is equal to the number of breaking balls that Trevor Bauer throws. While English and Spanish are certainly the most commonly used languages in a baseball clubhouse, Sicnarf can hold court in Dutch, French and Papiamento as well. It sounds like a spice that only people who shop at Whole Foods would use, but Papiamento is actually a common language in the Dutch Caribbean.
At some point in his life, Sicnarf left Aruba and made it to the US of A. Western Oklahoma State College, a community college, offered him a scholarship. I'm sure that Sicnarf felt right at home in Altus, OK, a city 500 miles from the ocean with the delightful mascot "Pioneer Guy". Other baseball players from Western Oklahoma State College include Andrelton Simmons and everyone else.
The Indians liked what they saw and snapped him up in the 13th round of the draft. Director of amateur scouting, Brad Grant, palavered with members of the media to describe at length the cornucopia of talents that Sicnarf would deliver to the organization: "Really good throw-catch skills with a developing bat."
Since arriving in the system, how has our friend fared?
|All Levels (3 Seasons)||86||303||268||34||62||12||3||10||29||5||1||25||69||0.231||0.307||0.410||0.717|
If anything, I think this shows how frustrating life can be as a minor league baseball player. Is it wonderful to play the game that you love every single day? Of course. But getting shipped around between northeast Ohio and Lynchburg all year has to take it out of a guy. I wonder how much that effects the ability of a kid to actually produce. How can you focus on the next pitch when after that at-bat you might be boarding a bus to schlep you back up to Mahoning Valley?
Is Sicnarf Loopstok a future Hall of Famer, as my copy of OOTP has predicted several times now? It doesn't appear so. To be fair, when I was 22, I spent long mornings sweeping up cigarette butts outside of the State St. Barnes & Noble. Anything could happen with young Mr. Loopstok.
Given that Sicnarf's life up to now feels a little bit like a Marvel supervillain origin story, I wouldn't give up on him just yet. If a skinny kid with a funny name can become the leader of the free world, than maybe -- just maybe -- another one can be the backstop for a big league team.