As a Class A minor league baseball player, Venezuelan-born Milko Jaramillo makes about $1,100 a month. Most months, he sends almost half of that home.
So for Jaramillo, who usually starts at shortstop for the Potomac Cannons when he is healthy, being in the United States means having the opportunity to help his family. Of course, the 22-year-old continues to hold on to the dream of moving through Double-A and Triple-A to reach the major leagues, but even the Carolina League gives him a taste of the American dream or at least the ballplayer’s dream.
“I talk to my family every week, but it’s too expensive for them to come see me play,” Jaramillo said. “I send money to my home about 500 dollars a month. And I get to play in Venezuela during the winter.”
When he’s in Venezuela, Jaramillo has everything he could want. He’s close to his family, including the brother who taught him how to play shortstop, and he spends much of his time playing baseball. This winter, he may get to play for the famed Venezuelan Winter League team in Magallanes.
For Jaramillo, the United States merely represents the best in baseball. Here, he can strive to make the major leagues, but he said his life is essentially the same in Woodbridge as it would be if he were home in Caracas, a city of about 5 million people.
“I don’t have many different things that I do,” he said. “But I do go to the mall. I like the shopping here.”
This season, Jaramillo lives in an apartment with four Cannons teammates. Roommates Ramon Araujo, a second baseman, and Juan Mejia, a pitcher, call the Dominican Republic home. The multicultural home also includes a pair of Californians, catcher Ryan Hamill and third baseman Al Rodgers.
In his five years in the minors, Jaramillo has learned quite a bit of English. In his first year in professional baseball, Jaramillo lived in Dodgertown, a complex where coaches and players live all summer, while playing in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Since then, he has lived with host families and now he and his roommates have no trouble communicating.
“Some of the players try to play dumb like they don’t know English, but don’t let them fool you,” Potomac manager Joe Cunningham said. “Like Araujo I managed him last year and he knows the language. They may not be as comfortable around people they don’t know, but they can use that to their advantage. The more they play, the more they can communicate.”
As a player, the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Jaramillo has impressed Cunningham and other St. Louis Cardinals officials with his strong arm and outstanding range at shortstop. Growing up, Milko would learn the game from his brother, Giovanny, who is now 35 and active as a shortstop in fast-pitch softball.
Milko Jaramillo injured his hamstring in his second game with the Cannons and has struggled to find a groove this season.
Through last season, Jaramillo had just a .234 batting average in five years in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. After the Dodgers decided not to place him on their 40-man roster of major leaguers and top prospects, the Cardinals selected him in December’s Rule 5 minor league draft. For $50,000 a small gamble in today’s baseball market St. Louis purchased his rights.
“If we could keep him healthy, if we could get him past the hamstring injury and to the point where he could play 80 or 90 games in a row, I think we’d see a lot in Milko,” Cunningham said.
Jaramillo recognizes his own shortcomings from the first five years of his minor league career, and he’s grateful for the opportunity the Cardinals are giving him. “I need to hit a little bit more if I want to go to Double-A,” he said. “If I do my job, they’ll give me a chance.”