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updated: 7/19/2012 9:04 PM

Cougars' Bonifacio motivated by older brother's success in the Majors

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  • Kane County Cougars outfielder Jorge Bonifacio is the younger brother of Emilio Bonifacio, who plays for the Miami Marlins.

      Kane County Cougars outfielder Jorge Bonifacio is the younger brother of Emilio Bonifacio, who plays for the Miami Marlins.
    Photo courtesy of Kane County Cougars

  • The Miami Marlins' Emilio Bonifacio, right, is greeted at home plate by Mark Buehrle after Bonifacio scored on a base hit earlier this month.

      The Miami Marlins' Emilio Bonifacio, right, is greeted at home plate by Mark Buehrle after Bonifacio scored on a base hit earlier this month.
    Associated Press

 
By Chad Thornburg
cthornburg@dailyherald.com

Miami Marlins outfielder Emilio Bonifacio has a critic in Geneva.

When his younger brother Jorge finds time between his own games with the Kane County Cougars, he tries to catch his Emilio's games on television.

And when he does, Emilio can expect a phone call.

"He calls me and tells me, 'Hey, I think you're opening up your shoulder' or you've been doing this," Emilio said. "At that age, at 19, that's pretty impressive."

Playing for the Class A minor league ballclub, Jorge has a ways to go before joining his older brother in the major leagues, but the younger Bonifacio has found his own success in the minors.

He is among the Cougars' best hitters with a .299 batting average through 344 plate appearances and is third in the Midwest League in hits (103) and eighth in RBI (52).

Before he signed with the Royals in December 2009, Jorge Bonifacio monitored his brother's progress from afar in the Dominican Republic. Seeing his older brother advance through the minor leagues to become a major league starter has motivated the Cougars outfielder to strive for similar success.

"I want to be better than my brother," Jorge said, smiling.

After signing with the Diamondbacks as an undrafted free agent in 2001, Emilio Bonifacio worked his way through Arizona's farm system and was called up to the majors in September 2007. He was traded to the Washington Nationals in 2008 and shipped a few months later to Miami, where he is now the starting center fielder for the Marlins.

The younger Bonifacio is currently on his third stop in the Royals farm system. The Royals signed Jorge as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2009.

When he arrived in the United States in 2010, Jorge Bonifacio said having an older brother who already went through the process helped him in the transition.

"He helped me a lot with the culture and a lot of different things," Jorge Bonifacio said, using a translator. "It's a little bit difficult. I'd like to be with my family back in the Dominican, but I consider this my job and I had to adjust to it."

Jorge Bonifacio was named player of the year for both his previous minor league teams, the DSL Royals and the Burlington Royals. He was named a Midwest League all-star starter last month for his first-half performance with the Cougars.

"He does a lot of things out there on the field that, at his age, you don't see many kids doing," said Cougars hitting coach Julio Bruno. "He can hit, he can run, he can throw. He's got the tools. Now it's just about the time he needs to learn to play the game and be patient and adjust to the different level."

His older brother believes it's just a matter of time until Jorge works his way up the baseball ranks.

"He can play," Emilio said. "He has the talent to be here and he's a hard worker."

In order for Jorge to improve his game, Bruno said the answer is simple. He needs to just continue to gain experience.

"He's only 19 years old," Bruno said. "He's a smart kid, works hard, never complains. ... Right now, he just needs to continue playing and learning and he's going to be all right."

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