As part of the season-long Béisbol Experience rollout, we will be releasing an interview every day from June 15-25. Find all of them at espn.com/beisbolexperience.
The Texas Rangers' two-time All Star is a self-described family man. Now, he shares his thoughts on the loneliness of the MLB lifestyle, how his family copes with living in two countries and how the league has changed since he first started his career.
How did baseball influence your decision to come to the United States? Where did they first find you when you were in the Dominican Republic?
I've been playing baseball my whole life. When I was 15, I began to see that I really had a chance to become a professional ballplayer. Back in the day, it wasn't like now. There weren't the advantages or the bonuses you have now. When I signed, I only had $7,000.
How long did it take you to communicate with your teammates and coaches in English?
I learned it from my teammates, my coaches and from you guys [the media]. I won't be scared to speak in a language which I'm learning. Why would I be? I'm proud because I'm able to speak my mind in a language that I've just learned. Latin players who come here get a little shy about speaking English, and I think that won't help them with their learning process because they have to dare themselves.
So it took you maybe a couple of years?
Two years. When I was in Double-A, I started to understand and to speak [English].
Do you feel comfortable speaking English to the media?
I like what they're doing right now, in which we have a person who is fully bilingual being able to help us communicate and not be misunderstood. Sometimes, some writers could get a quote from us which wouldn't reflect our thoughts since we weren't able to say what we really meant. It's good to know you have someone next to you to help you out because there are many times in which you will be talking to a media guy and they won't get the context of what you truly meant.
How does "The Code" affect your play on the field or your impression of the sport?
There's a lot of rules from back in the day, the old-school stuff. I'm not a big fan of that. I respect it, but I believe baseball has changed. We have to adapt ourselves from the time we're in. If you complicate yourself with those things, that's not going to help you with your performance on the field.
Do you remember how you got your first apartment?
Yes. I was in Harristown, Maryland. And a couple of us got together to rent an apartment. We didn't have a credit card, so we had to get one from one of the coaches.
Do you remember your first time ordering at a restaurant when you came here?
Of course. My first year, I'd always go to Applebee's. Whenever I went there, I was happy.
Did you start dating when you came here?
I wasn't thinking about those things. I didn't come here to mess around, I came here to play baseball. I didn't want to take my mind off it. It happened, but it wasn't like I was looking around for girls. After Double-A, I had my girlfriend who now happens to be my wife.
When was the last time you saw your family in the Dominican, and how much do you get to see them?
After each baseball season, I spend a long time with my family. The whole winter, three to four months with my whole family. We get together, have dinner, talk, have fun, we go to a resort together. I'm a big family guy.
Do you get separated from them a lot during the season and how hard is it for you?
It's hard for all of us. Baseball players have it hard. I understand guys like Derek Jeter, who don't get married until they retire, because it's really hard, especially in my case. I want to have my wife and kids around me. I feel lonely without them. I got here at 6 a.m. and everybody is gone already. If I go to my apartment right now, what I'm going to do? Watch TV? At least here I can sit down and talk to a clubbie, but as soon as I go back to my place, I'm on my own. When my family is near me, I can be with them. It's tough to have the life of a baseball player, since your family can't be with you all the time. This the life we chose to have. We have to deal with that.
How many kids do you have?
And during the season, are they with you in the States?
This year, things will be different. I decided not to change things for them, because previously my oldest son started the school year in the States and ended it in the Dominican. I didn't want to do it that way this year since he would have to separate himself from his teachers and friends. I don't think it's healthy for him. I better sacrifice myself so they he can be a normal kid.