Xander Bogaerts sees himself in Red Sox rookie Ceddanne Rafaela (2024)

In the hours leading up to Xander Bogaerts’ first game at Fenway Park as a visitor, several former Red Sox teammates found him to catch up.

But one player, in particular, was eager to greet him. Because even though they didn’t overlap in Boston, they share a unique connection few other Major Leaguers can claim.

For several minutes, Bogaerts and Ceddanne Rafaela stood by the Red Sox dugout, speaking Papiamento.

“When we talk, it’s always Papiamento,” Rafaela told the Herald.

Papiamento is the official language of Aruba, Bogaerts’ home, and Rafaela’s native Curaçao. Along with Bonaire, they make up the Dutch Caribbean’s beautiful ABC Islands, also known as the Leeward Antilles.

Bogaerts won’t play at all this weekend. He fractured his shoulder on May 20 and only began swinging a bat again this week. Like many Red Sox teammates, Rafaela was just happy to see him.

“I was asking him how it’s going with his injury, how he’s feeling, talking about life. It’s nice to have him around,” the rookie said with a smile.

As a kid growing up in Curaçao with dreams of playing Major League Baseball, Rafaela looked up to Bogaerts, who played ball against his cousin and brother. It made signing with Boston in the summer of 2017 all the more meaningful.

“I’ve always looked up to the player he is, the human he is,” Rafaela said. “I think he’s one person always. Doesn’t matter how he’s doing on the field, I think you always see him being nice to the people, he’s being one of the best teammates, that’s what I’ve heard. So I think those type of things are the things I really appreciate about him.”

Despite never officially being teammates, Bogaerts and Rafaela keep in touch.

“I hit him up the other day,” Bogaerts said, joking that he may have “jinxed” the rookie.

“He was hot, and then I hit him up and said continue and I mean, I think he went on a little cold stretch,” the infielder explained. “But he got it, man. And I mean, it’s elite at short and center. That’s not something that a lot of guys can say that they can do.”

Bogaerts sees a lot of himself in the rookie.

“Obviously, we know him to be a free-swinger, but when he hits it, he can get a good swing on it,” the two-time World Series champion assessed. “I’d probably say the same thing about me! When I was young, it was tough; I mean, I hit .240 my first (full) year in the big leagues. It wasn’t easy. And all I needed was a little time, the team showing some trust in me, giving me some more at-bats, some more playing time, and I’m happy with the player that I am today because of that, and I’m thankful for that.

“So I think, with him, it’s the same thing. Just patience. And the more he learns the strike zone, the more he plays, the more better he’ll get, that’s for sure. He works hard, and he has a lot of talent, that’s for sure. He has a good mindset.”

In baseball history, only 23 players have made it from ABC to MLB. When he debuted with the Red Sox on August 20, 2013, Bogaerts was No. 18. Ten years and eight days later, Rafaela became the 23rd.

“I always wanted to play with someone from the islands, and now I have Profar,” Bogaerts said of Padres teammate Jurickson Profar, who hails from Curaçao. “Profar is someone I played against since we were nine. … Me and him have something different, something more special I would say.”

Rafaela shares the Red Sox clubhouse with fellow Curaçaoan Kenley Jansen. But in an alternate universe – one in which the club renegotiated Bogaerts’ contract and he remained a Red Sock for life, just as he always wanted – it could’ve been Bogaerts and Rafaela. It’s something both really wanted.

“Yes, always, it was always in my mind, coming up in the organization,” Rafaela said. “I was hoping to play with him but we didn’t have the chance.”

“Rafaela is someone I took care of whenever he was in the minors. I followed him a lot in the minors,” Bogaerts concurred. “He was one I was looking forward to playing with, but it didn’t happen.”

When he debuted late last summer, Rafaela played several positions, often subbing into contest in later innings. Then he got to make his first career start, stepping into Bogaerts’ shoes.

“In my mind it was crazy, because my first start was at short, and that’s where he was for years,” he said with a smile. “That first game was special for me, playing shortstop.”

Stuck on the sidelines for his first series back in Boston, Bogaerts was looking forward to seeing the rookie patrol his old diamond live.

“I’m definitely excited to see him play tonight, I don’t know if it’s at short or center,” he said.

Hearing that Rafaela was starting at shortstop on Friday night, Bogaerts smiled.

“That’ll be nice.”

Xander Bogaerts sees himself in Red Sox rookie Ceddanne Rafaela (2024)


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