EVERETT — Many Everett AquaSox players who hail from warmer climates appreciate a break from the heat when they play in Everett’s mild summer climate.
Eugene Helder isn’t one of them.
“I’m an island boy, so back home it’s warm with a little bit of wind, but it’s not this cold,” Helder said with a chuckle. “I’m still adjusting to the weather, so I’ve been keeping myself warm in the dugout with my (hat) on and jacket on. It’s been tough weather for me.”
Home for Helder is Aruba, a Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela that belongs to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The island is a well-known tourist destination where the preferred sport is soccer. Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox is the only current Aruba native in Major League Baseball.
That didn’t deter Helder.
“I come from a family where everything is baseball,” Helder said. “My grandpa played baseball, my dad, my dad’s cousin, everybody in my family played baseball for a long time. So I started off as a little kid, 3 years old, on the baseball field. I grew up on baseball.”
Helder speaks four languages, making him arguably the most cosmopolitan AquaSox player. He sometimes acts as a English translator for his Spanish-speaking teammates, and also speaks Dutch, and Papiamento, which is the native language of Aruba.
He’s just as versatile on the field. Helder is listed as a second baseman, but he has played just three games at the position this season. Helder has played 17 games at third base and lately has spent time in left field.
That’s not by design.
“Right now we have (lots) players out of position,” Everett manager Jose Moreno said. “(Joe) Venturino went home (for a funeral) and Helder has been hitting the ball real well, and we have (Chris) Torres and (Joseph) Rosa here. To keep those guys in the lineup we have to play different positions.”
Helder has no problem with that, as long as it keeps him on the field.
“It’s best for my career so I can remain in the game,” Helder said. “I get to play everywhere in the field to get my (at-bats) in, get more innings and to help the team win games because that’s the main point.”
Helder’s bat hasn’t cooled despite his lack of affinity for the weather in Everett. He’s slashing .306/.343/.510, and his slugging percentage is fourth in the Northwest League. Helder has two homers to go along with six doubles and a league-best four triples.
He has hit safely in 17 of the 24 games in which he’s appeared for Everett, and has at least one hit in nine of his last 10 contests.
For Helder, it’s just another step in his development as he continues to grow more comfortable as he learns the ways of the Mariners organization.
“We have to do everything the right way,” Helder said. “These guys, we pick each other up, hold each other accountable, so that’s the best part of it. If you do something wrong everyone is here to cheer you up and help you do the right thing. It’s the best culture I’ve had. It’s very professional.”
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