CUMBERLAND – Portland area baseball fans should be thrilled at the outcome of the recently completed World Series. The San Francisco Giants won their first Fall Classic in 56 years, and Forest City native Ken Joyce was the hitting coach for the organization’s top minor league affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League.

Joyce, a USM graduate, is an inspiration for several reasons, not the least of which is that he’s become one of baseball’s most universally admired and respected hitting coaches despite never having played at the professional level himself.

But my personal reason for celebrating involves the Most Valuable Player of the 2010 World Series. Fifteen years ago, Edgar Renteria and I each came to Portland to spend the summer working at Hadlock Field. He was a 19-year-old phenom who played shortstop; I was twice his age and also an Eastern League rookie, but my position was radio announcer.

We both arrived in Portland for the first time during the first week of April in 1995.

A local charitable organization had partnered with the Sea Dogs to set up a welcome dinner for the team the evening before the season opener.

Fans who bought tickets were treated to hot dogs, ice cream and other ballpark delicacies, but what attracted the public was a chance to sit and chat with a real live Sea Dogs player. There were eight people per table, seven ticket buyers and one actual team member.

However, there was one potential logistical problem: Two players were said to speak only Spanish. One was Dominican pitcher Antonio Alfonseca; the other was Renteria, a Colombian. My resume listed a brief Peace Corps stint in Guatemala, so I was nominated to sit with one of the two young Latinos that night.

Since the players had just arrived from spring training in Florida, I had no idea what any of them looked like. Still, when I got to Table Number 10 there wasn’t too much doubt about who Edgar Renteria was.

Six people chatted amiably among themselves; there was one empty seat (mine), and a dark-skinned, athletic-looking young fellow sitting there silently and expressionlessly.

I approached the quiet young man. “Edgar?” I said. He responded with a wordless look that acknowledged my presence but betrayed little else about what he was thinking. I seized upon his silence as a window of opportunity, launching into the fractured-Spanish soliloquy I had been practicing all afternoon.

“Edgar: Yo soy Andres. Mi trabajo es con los Sea Dogs. Ocho anos en el pasado yo vivi en en Guatemala con el Cuerpo de Paz, y a este vez yo hable un poquito de espanol, pero ahora yo no recuerdo mucho. Pero su necesitas ayuda, yo voy a tratar.”

(Very rough translation: “Edgar, I’m Andy. I work for the Sea Dogs. Eight years ago I was in the Peace Corps in Guatemala and spoke a little Spanish at that time. I’ve forgotten most of it, but if you need help I’ll try to assist you.”)

Edgar listened impassively. Then, when I was finished, he looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t worry, man. I speak English.”

Edgar didn’t need to say much that summer; his play spoke for him. The infield featuring first sacker Tim Clark, second baseman Ralph Milliard, Edgar at short and Lou Lucca at the hot corner was unquestionably Portland’s best ever.

Edgar and I didn’t converse a lot that summer, mostly because I was far less articulate in Spanish than he was in his heavily accented English. We did exchange a few friendly waves and smiles though, and before the season was over he even managed to do a 10-minute interview with me on a pregame show in Binghamton, N.Y. I’m not sure if anyone other than he and I understood any of it, but we both enjoyed it immensely.

The following May, Edgar was the Florida Marlins’ shortstop, and the year after that he rapped out the game-winning single in the bottom of the 11th inning of the seventh game of the World Series. He was 21 years old at the time.

And 13 years later he belted a series-clinching three-run home run off of one of the game’s elite pitchers. Edgar Renteria is a World Series hero again, albeit a slightly fleshier one who currently sports significantly less hair than he did when he was a temporary Portlander 15 years ago.

And those of us who knew him even slightly back then agree that it couldn’t have happened to un hombre mas amable.