Ayala, Jesús

A special edition Selección trading card for Jesús Ayala, which includes his position and birth year (as that's all that is known about him), mentions that he was chosen with the 71st pick of the 23rd round, and that his career ended with zero errors or times caught stealing.

basics

• position: left fielder.
• batted / threw:
unknown. 
• height:
unknown.
• weight: unknown.

• born: unknown date, circa 1839.
• hometown: unknown.

teams

Ingenieros de Rincón1871.

highlights

See below.

 

career

When José Sánchez took the opportunity afforded by his twelfth-round selection to immediately announce his retirement from professional baseball, he proved that being the first baseball player to do something that wasn’t, in and of itself, a baseball accomplishment was almost always inherently funny, especially if you embarrassed your team by doing it.

Sánchez made the Vaqueros the principal laughingstock of La Selección. This story is only slightly less embarrassing.

The logo of the Ingenieros de Rincón: a black cursive "R" bordered in white and then red, on a green circle streaked with black lines, bordered in black and then white.

January 5th, 1871

In the 23rd round of La Selección—that is to say, on the second day of the draft landing in official “screw it” territory—the Ingenieros use their 71st pick on 32-year-old left fielder Jesús Ayala.

Despite La Máquina’s misguided attempt to craft an everyday lineup out of men whom most other players considered greybeards, Ayala’s 32 years were exactly average for Rincón draftees.

Based on Ayala’s age and late pick—which is the entirety of extant information about him before La Selección—he would have in all likelihood signed a contrato simple with the Ingenieros, which only entitled the team to first call upon his services. His future in baseball would have been in enough doubt to prod him to travel with the team to Rincón and play in their intrasquad games, hoping to earn a starting job.

Since Pascual Crespo started at left field for all but nine games in 1871—and another three in center field—it is obvious that Ayala was wildly unsuccessful. If he was dropped to the reserve roster, as seems likely, he would have departed for parts unknown by mid-month.

Nearly eight hundred players went home in similar disappointment, since active rosters were limited to fifteen players. Most of these players faded into complete obscurity, at least for a few years.

Ayala made history.

The logo of the Ingenieros de Rincón: a black cursive "R" bordered in white and then red, on a green circle streaked with black lines, bordered in black and then white.

January 30th, 1871

Shortly after the headquarters of the Liga Nacional Puertorriqueña have been opened for the week, a rider enters the Commissioner’s office with a note from the Ingenieros offices.

In a short message, Rincón informs La Central that the team doctor has declared Jesús Ayala unable to play for the next five days, due to, he says, “being scratched by a cat.”

The exact injury caused by the cat is tantalizingly left “undisclosed.” 

There was no central injury registry in those days, partly because what passed for league staff (erroneously) trusted each team to sit players when they were hurt, and partly because they (more correctly) intuited that there was no possible way to receive timely information from 78 different offices on the subject.

Jesús Ayala, therefore, was the first player signed to a Liga Nacional Puertorriqueña team to be officially declared injured. There would be plenty more, of course, as these men were forced to confront the fact that their bodies were thoroughly unaccustomed for the demands of a professional sport, even its 1871 version.

While his run-in with the unnamed feline might have suggested he was prone to injury, Ayala had plenty of upside. As a left fielder on the younger side of thirty, he was likely a better runner and fielder than most of his positional colleagues. If his bat left something to be desired, he had enough time to fix it before he was no longer effective.

Despite all that, the Ingenieros—who were responsible for his health even while he languished on their reserve roster—failed to give him even a single out’s worth of playing time, and Ayala chose to retire at the end of the season as a near-complete cipher.

According to Venegas, whose preseason journals occasionally mention Ayala, there was nothing wrong with his performance that a few more at-bats would not fix. The problem was that the circumstances surrounding the injury were rather suspicious.

He claimed he had been trying to hold the cat when it scratched him, but Venegas implies that the location of the scratches was inconsistent with Ayala’s account of events. Nor did it help his case that he did not appear to suffer any adverse symptoms after the injury, or that the wounds, while certainly impressive to the eye, were apparently “far too shallow” to have been made by an actual feline’s claws.

Most damning to his cause, however, was the fact that, no matter how often his coaches and fellow players asked, he simply would not tell them the name of the cat.

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