Demetrius Sims of the Caimanes de Barranquilla takes some ground balls prior to the Caimanes game against the Alazanes de Granma at the 2023 Baseball Champions League in Merida, Mexico. (Photo: Leif Skodnick/World Baseball Network)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
MERIDA, Mexico – It’s a little over two hours prior to game time on Saturday, but Demetrius Sims, clad in black Miami Marlins workout shorts and a t-shirt, has work to do.
Batting and infield practice has yet to start, but Sims, 28, is taking ground balls in front of the dugout, working on the hand-eye coordination that elite middle infielders need.
Tunes are coming out of the noise-cancelling headphones, but Sims is all business, working on backhand and forehand scoops in the warm, humid late morning
The shirt and shorts are a reminder of where he’s been; the 14th round pick of the Marlins in the 2017 MLB Draft out of Bethune-Cookman University, a historically Black university in Daytona Beach, Florida, rose as high as Triple-A Jacksonville in 2022 before playing independent ball for the Lake Country Dockhounds of the American Association this summer.
And now, he’s in Mexico, playing for the first time for his new winter ball team from Colombia, representing a new city in a country he’s never visited. In a few hours, he’ll face a lot of players he knows when his Caimanes de Barranquilla square off against the American Association’s Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks in the third game of the round robin portion of the 2023 Baseball Champions League.
He’s started the first two games at third base for the Caimanes and has been immaculate so far, though he’s only had three chances at the hot corner.
“It’s wonderful how baseball puts you in certain situations. I never thought I would be playing representing Columbia against my home country, playing against Fargo tomorrow,” Sims said outside the third base dugout Friday afternoon. “A lot of those guys are familiar that I’ve played against throughout the year, so it’ll be fun.”
Over the summer, the Ann Arbor, Michigan native got a call from the Caimanes to gauge his interest in playing in this event.
“This was my first year in ‘indy ball,’ and it couldn’t have gone any better for me, said Sims, who hit .298/.366.453 over 90 games with nine homers and an OPS of .819 this year “Going in, I didn’t know what to expect, but the AA is great. Great competition. A lot of those guys do have higher affiliate experience and Major League experience, so it definitely keeps you on your P’s and Q’s and it’s competitive each and every night.”
And when American Association season was over, he got on a plane.
The Caimanes “showed some interest in possibly playing here in the tournament. So they kind of been keeping in touch and now, I’m here,” said Sims.
He’ll play for the Caimanes, the 12-time Liga Beisbol Profesional Colombiano champions, this winter.
Asked about his Spanish, Sims smiled and said, “I’m learning un poquito.”
His enthusiasm about playing in Colombia this winter is clear.
“Hopefully, God willing, I get the opportunity to keep playing. I would love to stay here in Columbia and play with Barranquilla, but whatever the opportunity presents, I’m here for it,” Sims said.
He won’t miss the Michigan winter, though.
With a laugh, Sims said, “I’ll take the heat over the cold and snow any day of the week.”