Pure of Heart. Willson Contreras.

2016. First MLB at bat. First pitch. First home run.

2018. First All-Star at bat. First pitch. First home run.

Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras does not waste opportunities. That is because each and every one has been the result of hard work and dedication on his part. Contreras, along with his younger brother William (who plays in the Atlanta Braves organization), grew up playing with homemade bats and balls.

Born Willson Eduardo Contreras in Puerto Cabello, Carabobo, Venezuela, on May 13, 1992, the Cubs scouted the future all-star at a baseball academy where he had moved when he was just 16. A year later, in 2009, he was signed as an international free agent. When he came to the United States, he had never been to America and didn’t speak any English.

“The first year, it’s hard being away from family and being away from your parents. But if you want to be someone important in your life and you want to be successful in life, you’ve got to make sacrifices and work hard everywhere you go.”

- Contreras speaking to Des Moines Register sports writer Tommy Birch

Contreras started as a third baseman with the Dominican Summer League Cubs, in the rookie minor league, but also played second and the outfield. He batted .205 in 29 games his first year. In 2010, he played 17 games, batting .313. He was promoted to the Boise Hawks, in the Single A (Short) League, for two seasons (2011–2012). In his second year with the team, the Cubs moved him to his current position.

By 2013, he was playing with the Kane County Cougars, in the Single A (Full) league. The following year he joined the Daytona Cubs, in the Single A (Advanced) League. In 2015, with the Tennessee Smokies in the Double AA League, he was named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year (.333/.413/.478). It was after that season that he was first named to the Cubs 40-man roster.

Cubs C Willson Contreras, Baseball America’s 67th-ranked prospect

2016 started with Contreras a top ranked MLB prospect, #57 on the Baseball Prospectus’ list, the best catching prospect per MLB.com, and #2 on Baseball America’s list. This came two years after the Cubs exposed him to the winter Rule 5 draft. He began the regular season with the Iowa Cubs in the Triple A League. After 55 games, he was called up to the majors. His very first at-bat was on June 17. He caught that game, played first in his fifth major league game, and left field in his eighth.

“I play for family. I obviously play to get my dreams to come true but I just have to respect my family because they did everything for me since I was born.”

- Contreras speaking to Des Moines Register sports writer Tommy Birch

There was never any doubt that Contreras plays with his heart. Earlier this year, at the winter Cubs Convention, right fielder Jason Heyward said one of his favorite moments from the previous season was starting pitcher Jon Lester picking off St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham in June. Had it not been for his catcher’s straight to the point comment moments before … “I went out there and I said, ‘Hey mutherf — ker, throw the f — king ball to first.’” … it might never have happened.

This is the same man who recently surprised 11-year-old Daniel Rodriguez at his school in west suburban Franklin Park. Contreras hosted a party for the 60 students at Enger School, a school for students with special needs. The two first met at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge in January 2017. A month later Rodriguez went to the team’s spring training camp in Arizona, and, in June, spent his birthday at Wrigley Field, a V.I.P. guest of the catcher.

“Daniel is absolutely a special kid to me. We became best friends. … He’s a special kid to me … To me, he means a lot. If there’s anything to help them, I would do it.”

- Contreras, named Advocate Children’s Hospital’s Most Valuable Player of the Year, told NBC Sports Chicago

Willson Contreras Visits His Best Friend

Earlier this year Contreras married Andrea Villamizar on an off-day. They were married in downtown Chicago at City Hall on May 3. They were just engaged on Valentine’s Day, but the two wanted to get married before their parents returned to Venezuela. The couple worry that their families back home, where they live during the off-season, may be targeted because of Contreras’ status as a major leaguer.

Willson Contreras Baseball Statistics To Date