Every so often a bright baseball star is snuffed out far too early due to tragedy. One of these was the sad case of pitcher, who was a top prospect whose greatest distinction in his 26-inning major league career was throwing the final pitch in Seattle Pilots history. Unfortunately, just as his burgeoning career was taking off, he was murdered in the parking lot of a bar at the age of 23, ending what might have been a star career in tragic fashion.
A native of Puerto Rico, the right-handed Fuentes was slight (6’0” and 160 pounds), but became known as a top amateur pitcher. In 1968, scout Felix Delgadothe hurler to a contract for the Pilots.
Fuentes was sent to Single-A for the 1969 season and proved he was way too advanced for the level. In 26 games (6 starts) he was 8-2 with a 1.46 ERA, two shutouts and two saves. He only permitted 47 hits in 74 innings, which seemed like solid proof that the 23-year-old was ready for the majors. The Pilots agreed and brought him up for the final month of the season.
The Pilots were in the midst of a miserable season in 1969 that would see them sport a 64-98 record. Fuentes was slipped into a jack of all trades role down the stretch. He showed off his vast potential almost immediately, pitching aagainst the Chicago White Sox in just his third big league appearance.
Fuentes wound up making eight appearances (four starts) for the Pilots, going 1-2 with a 5.19 ERA. He also threw the team’s final pitch in the season finale (the team moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers the following season)—ato center field by future Hall-of-Famer of the Oakland Athletics. Accordingly, hopes were high for the young pitcher as he embarked to the off season and pitching for the Caguas Criollos of the Puerto Rican Winter League.
On January 29, 1970, Fuentes was at a bar in Loiza Aldea celebrating the end of Criollos’ season,with a group of teen aged friends. He went outside to relieve himself due to the establishment’s non-working plumbing. Another patron, who thought the pitcher was too close to their vehicle three times in the abdomen, hand and thigh at close range. He went into shock and shortly after being taken to a where medical staff could do nothing to save the young man.
There is no known information (that I could find) about what happened to Fuentes’ murderer. What is known is that a young baseball player on the verge of possibility and opportunity was cut down before he had a chance to fully display the talent that had made him one of the top prospects in baseball.
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