SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Even with 750 players in the big leagues and thousands more in the minors, Major League Baseball can be a small world. Take the case of catcher Guillermo Quiroz and pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, two veterans fighting for roster spots on the Giants.
The Venezuelans were first teammates in 1994, when they helped their team from Cocquivacoa Little League in Maracaibo, Venezuela win the country's first Little League World Series title. Petit, then 10 years old, was a backup second baseman; Quiroz was 12 years old and started every game behind the plate.
"He was the big hitter," said Petit, who spent most of last season as a right-handed starter at Triple-A Fresno. "He was the best catcher we had in that area, and we won because of good catching and pitching."
Quiroz had long dreamt of visiting the U.S., but when Cocquivacoa arrived in Williamsport, Pa., the players didn't follow the traditional adolescent route and run for the video games and pingpong table. Quiroz remembers that everyone was immediately in awe of the baseball fields.
"You saw the nice grass and they gave us brand new baseballs every day," he said. "That's when this all started for me -- that's when I knew I wanted to be a professional player."
Quiroz, 31, has reached the majors with Toronto, Seattle (two different stints), Texas, Baltimore and most recently Boston. He hit .278 with a .362 on-base percentage and 15 homers at Triple-A Tacoma last season and got a few weeks in the big leagues after a trade to the Red Sox organization.
After playing 13 seasons and making stops everywhere from Dunedin, Fla., to Medicine Hat, Alberta, Quiroz knows exactly what he wants this season.
"I'm trying to settle my career in the big leagues," he said. "It's been up and down. I'm just trying to make a good impression and open some eyes."
Quiroz has impressed during workouts, showing a capable glove and pop at the plate, but he's blocked by the National League MVP and fellow Venezuelan Hector Sanchez.
Petit won a ring last fall after making a spot start in September. But neither player has lost track of the prized possession that came with that 1994 championship.
"We got a medal," Quiroz said. "And of course I still have it."