A different offseason awaits Yankees reliever Jonathan Loaisiga

Yankees reliever Jonathan Loaisiga at his Rancho la Guadalupana in Tipitapa, Managua, Nicaragua
Michael Bennington
Tuesday October 10, 2023

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Yankees reliever Jonathan Loaisiga plans an offseason strikingly different from many of his teammates. While some packed their bags, along with their families, for tropical getaways, others scheduled rounds of golf. But this native of Nicaragua heads to his farm and his focus this offseason is to spend time with his 22 bulls.

His season ended early as the Yankees placed Jonathan Loaisiga on the injured list on September 12 for an elbow inflammation. His elbow issue had posed challenges for the team in “different points in different years.” The injury in question ultimately translated into an extended period of four-month stay for Loaisiga on the injured list, necessitating a lengthy rehabilitation process following surgery to address a bone spur.

Jonathan Loaisiga, the ardent Derek Jeter admirer aspiring to emulate his idol, understands that there’s still more to accomplish in the big leagues. To reach his full potential and establish himself as a consistent force, he must first navigate the challenges of staying healthy. He is one of only 15 Nicaraguan ballplayers to ascend to the grand stage of Major League Baseball and one of the two active Nicaraguans currently gracing the league alongside Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Erasmo Ramirez.

Jonathan Loaisiga’s different offseason

For Jonathan Loaisiga, his post-season respite led him to his homeland, Nicaragua, where he has a farm housing an eclectic array of animals, including horses, chickens, and sheep. But that’s not all – Loáisiga proudly tends to some rather sizable occupants in his stable: a collection of 22 bulls. His passion for animals traces back to his upbringing in a small town just 10 minutes outside Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua.

Two fans present a Jonathan Loaisiga a sketch of the Yankees bullpen pitcher at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees reliever used to purchase hens and raise them when he was around 13 or 14 years old. He also recalled accompanying his cousin to a Barrera de Toro, which resembled a bull-riding rodeo, where they would have two rides – one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

At the age of 24, Jonathan Loaisiga embarked on his journey as a bull owner, steadily expanding his stable over time. He leases these bulls for the thrilling barreras, and captivating bull-riding exhibitions. These events draw local crowds to compact arenas, where they indulge in food and beverages while witnessing courageous individuals take their turns riding bulls to the rhythm of Nicaraguan music. The most daring riders challenge the fiercest bulls to the delight of the enthusiastic spectators. Even the most skilled riders eventually find themselves unceremoniously deposited onto the arena floor, hastily scrambling to evade the charging bull.

In Jonathan Loaisiga’s venture into bull-raising, there lies a layer of symbolism. It mirrors his own resolute determination, as he’s had to display unwavering persistence to make it to the major leagues and overcome the initial threat posed by injuries that could have derailed his ascent. Presently, these injuries have veered his promising career off course. This season hasn’t just been a disappointment for the Yankees; it has also been a trying period for Jonathan Loaisiga, who has grappled with two stints on the Injured List while on the brink of establishing himself as one of the most formidable relievers in the sport.

Jonathan Loaisiga’s destiny has always been intertwined with baseball from the moment he entered this world. His family’s baseball lineage runs deep – his grandfather was a player in Nicaragua’s professional baseball league, his father, Stanley, pursued a career in the Montreal Expos’ minor-league system, and even his brother, Mike, spent three years in the Dominican Summer League as part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

Around the age of 7, Jonathan Loaisiga’s grandfather, who took on the role of raising him when his father departed, escorted him to a park situated in the bustling city of Managua. It was here that he first dipped his toes into the world of baseball, participating in a youth league. As he showcased his innate talent, Jonathan Loaisiga eventually outgrew the league by the time he reached 11 years old. Undeterred, he continued to nurture his passion for the game by training at a field near his hometown of Lunica – a facility renowned for its role in developing and honing the skills of the most promising prospects.

At the time, Jonathan Loaisiga’s stature was far from imposing, with a slight build that tipped the scales at a mere 115 pounds. Moreover, he was considered too young to join the ranks of adult players. Nevertheless, his love for baseball was unwavering, prompting him to persist and remain a steadfast presence around the sport.

Aaron Judge and Yankees bullpen pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga, who are on IL, greet each other after their live practice session at Yankee Stadium on July 23, 2023.
USA TODAY Sports

His baseball career

It took an arduous two-year journey for him to finally secure an opportunity to play alongside seasoned professionals in Lunica. Once he made his debut in that sphere, it became abundantly clear that Jonathan Loaisiga possessed remarkable talent. Remarkably, at the tender age of 17, he tried out for the San Francisco Giants, ultimately securing a contract with the team in 2012.

Following a pair of frustrating seasons marred by shoulder-related injuries in 2014 and 2015, the Giants decided to part ways with Jonathan Loaisiga. Subsequently, he inked a deal with the New York Yankees. However, in his very first start for the Single-A Charleston team in 2016, he was forced to exit due to elbow troubles, ultimately necessitating Tommy John surgery to rectify the issue.

Upon his triumphant return from surgery, Jonathan Loaisiga continued to make waves, consistently climbing the organizational ladder. By the time 2018 rolled around, he had ascended to the status of the Yankees’ 14th-ranked prospect, a distinction bestowed upon him by MLB Pipeline. During his big league debut that year, he showcased his prowess by hurling five scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Jonathan Loaisiga’s journey in baseball underwent a notable shift as he transitioned from a starting pitcher to a reliever, showcasing his dominance by unleashing a wicked sinker on opposing batters. By the time 2021 rolled around, He had firmly established himself as one of the most outstanding relievers in the game. In a remarkable 57 appearances during that season, Jonathan Loaisiga secured nine victories, surpassing the win totals of Yankees starters Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery combined. His impressive 2.17 ERA ranked him fourth in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) among relief pitchers, as per FanGraphs.

jonathan loaisiga of yankees
AP

However, the trajectory toward superstardom has experienced a slowdown of late. Jonathan Loaisiga, now 28 years old, has been hampered by inflammation in his right elbow, which has limited him to just 17 appearances this season. During this time, Jonathan Loaisiga managed to maintain a 3.06 ERA over 17 2/3 innings pitched.

Jonathan Loaisiga carries the pride of his homeland with him every day as he steps onto the field, dedicating himself to delivering his best performance for the fans. It’s this unwavering commitment and dedication that drives him to persevere through adversity and put in the hard work required to attain his goals.

Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters that he observed a striking resemblance between Jonathan Loaisiga and a young Mariano Rivera. In essence, the unassuming figure in the Yankees’ bullpen possesses the tenacity and resilience reminiscent of a bull, ready to face whatever challenges come his way.

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