Former University of Miami baseball standout Paco Figueroa, 29, has yet to make it to the major leagues.
But this past Sunday, he earned a major opportunity to show what he can do against the best players in the world.
Figueroa, a starting second baseman, hit .438 in four games last week, leading Spain to a World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament championship at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.
The other teams competing for the one available spot in the WBC main draw in March were South Africa, France and Israel.
In March, Spain’s team, which is currently made up of minor-leaguers, will be competing against countries that can put together virtual MLB all-star teams such as USA, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela — not to mention two-time WBC champ Japan.
“Those teams are going to have the advantage, of course,” said Figueroa, who is eligible to play for Spain because his father was born there. “It’s going to be tough, but we look forward to the competition. We’re going to give it our all and have fun.”
That’s been Figueroa’s mantra since his days at Miami’s Gulliver Prep and then, later, with the Hurricanes.
He and his twin brother, Danny, an outfielder, led the Canes to a pair of trips to the College World Series in 2003 and 2004.
They never won a CWS title, but both got drafted by the Orioles in 2005 — Paco in the ninth round and Danny in the 43rd.
Both reached Triple A in 2010, but that — for Danny, at least — was the high point.
Danny was released after the 2010 season, played independent baseball — unaffiliated with any major-league team — in 2011 and then virtually retired from the game.
Danny, who has a finance degree from UM, works in a management capacity for a private HMO. He was also on Spain’s WBC roster last week, although he did not play due to a hamstring injury.
Former UM player Manny Crespo, now the Detroit Tigers’ Director of Player Development in Latin America, is an assistant coach with Spain’s national team and a big fan of both Figueroas.
“Danny’s a tremendous center fielder who bats at the top of our lineup [when healthy],” Crespo said. “We missed him, but he will be back by March.
“Paco is very valuable. He is one of the best right-handed bunters I’ve ever seen. He can run, play defense, and he’s a great two-strike hitter.”
Shoulder surgery in 2007 set Paco back, and he was eventually traded to the Phillies In 2010. He was cut by the Phillies after the 2011 season and played independent ball last season.
Now he’s hoping his success in international baseball will get him back on track with a major-league organization.
Paco and Danny, both still single, share a home in Miami. In essence, Paco said, he’s still married to baseball.
“I love the game,” he said. “I’m going to play winter ball this year in Mexico or Puerto Rico. My goal is to sign with an affiliated club, and my dream is to play in the majors.
“I feel like I can play for many years to come. I still have that fire.”