The first major-leaguer ever born in the 1980s, Furcal jumped from Single-A to the majors in 2000 at the age of 19 and won the Rookie of the Year Award in his first season with the Braves. Manager Bobby Cox had intended to ease Furcal into the lineup, but an early-season injury to Walt Weiss forced his hand. Filling in for Weiss and batting eighth, Furcal's outstanding play -- especially his electric baserunning -- eventually won him a regular job as Atlanta's leadoff man.
Furcal shook off a mid-season DUI arrest and nagging hamstring problems to swipe 40 bases -- breaking Ty Cobb's 1906 record for a 19-year-old -- while posting a .295 batting average and .394 on-base percentage. Comfortable at both middle infield positions, he filled in capably for Quilvio Veras when the veteran second baseman suffered a season-ending ACL tear in July.
Furcal is shorter than his listed height of 5' 10", earning him the affectionate moniker "El Enano" -- The Dwarf -- from his Spanish-speaking teammates. (JGR)
FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»April 4, 2000: The Rockies defeat the Braves, 5-3. Atlanta SS Rafael Furcal goes 2-for-4 in his major league debut, becoming the 1st big league player born in the 1980s. It will come out later that Furcal shaved two years off his birth year, which was really 1978.
»May 25, 2001:
Greg Maddux becomes the first Brave pitcher since Dick Rudolph in 1916 to throw two 1-0 shutouts in the same month as he whips the Pirates, 1–0. Maddux beat the Brewers, 1–0 on May 2. Rafael Furcal's RBI single off Todd Ritchie (0–6) is the winner. The Bucs waste a chance in the 8th when they have three singles, but two runners are caught stealing.
»July 6, 2001: Braves SS Rafael Furcal dislocates his shoulder in Atlanta's 6–5, 10–inning win over Boston. He will be out for the rest of the year.
»April 21, 2002: Rafael Furcal triples three times to tie the modern major-league record as the Braves defeat the Marlins, 4–2. The last player to accomplish the feat was Lance Johnson of the White Sox in 1995.