MADISON, Alabama – The dream of almost every baseball player from a young age is to make it to the big leagues and be the next Babe Ruth.
For a Cuban baseball player, like Trash Pandas Outfielder, Orlando Martinez, this dream is associated with freedom. Cuba, with its deteriorating exteriors, is a daily reminder of the 1950s before the oppression of the Castro regime.
Most would say America’s heartbeat is the crackle of a bat hitting a baseball and while we’re excited to see that home run, it’s a constant reminder to Cuban emigrants as a sound of freedom. .
The trip to the United States has not been easy for Martinez, as he thinks back through the process, challenges and opportunities spring to mind.
“It was very hard to leave Cuba. I left with my dad, I was 17 when I left. “At that time, only a few of us could leave legally, without a visa for some countries. We took this opportunity so that my dad and I could leave, ”Martinez told News 19.
To get here, Martinez and his father had to travel through five different countries so that he could fulfill his dream of one day playing on the biggest stage in the world. Fortunately, Martinez and his father left shortly after his mother and were not separated for long.
“We traveled through many different countries before arriving in the United States. My father and I left with a normal visa for Ecuador, from there we went to Haiti, in Haiti we crossed the border to the Dominican Republic, we could not stay too long in the Dominican Republic because of some problems that we had there, and there we decided, like many Cubans, to get on a boat and go to Isla De Mona, ”which is the third largest island in Puerto Rico.
At that time, it was during this time that they had the Wet Feet and Dry Feet policy, which encouraged Cuban refugees who emigrated from Cuba to be able to continue their residency a year later. “Since my dream was to play baseball in the United States, I waited until this year to get my residency so I could play in college,” Martinez said.
On January 12, 2017, Barak Obama announced the immediate end of politics.
Due to the dictatorship in Cuba, no American team is allowed to recruit a Cuban player who wishes to play in the United States. They must seek to reside in another country for at least a year before an American team is allowed to sign or sign a Cuban player as a free agent.
“I couldn’t sign with my Cuban residence, because of political restrictions in Cuba, you can’t sign baseball players. While I was already here, I was able to go to a school in the Bahamas. With a temporary residence in the Bahamas, I was able to sign as a free agent. I lived in the Bahamas for a year and a half, while there I was able to be signed by the Angels, ”Martinez said.
While there may have been some obstacles in achieving his dream, as many aspiring baseball players endure in their own way, Martinez says playing in the United States is an opportunity he didn’t have to. Cuba.
“You don’t have the sports equipment, the means, baseball here gives you here in the United States, it gives you everything to be successful. In Cuba, it’s more difficult to play baseball, you have to get ahead and it’s something very complicated, ”said Martinez.
He didn’t do it on his own, Martinez had his parents who always gave him the best platform possible and did everything he could to train him, even if it was with as little material as possible.
Being in the United States, Martinez never thought that while he made his dream come true, he would see his home country, Cuba, rise up. on July 11, the Cuban people took to the streets of the island to protest for better health care, human rights and the end of a dictatorship.
Like many Cubans who had fled their homeland, Martinez said that upon seeing this, a fire rekindled inside him.
“Seeing the Cuban people which was a great motivation for all Cubans, all Cubans supported, even though we weren’t on the island,” Martinez remembers that day, “It was moving, I mean that I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I was proud, ”Martinez said.
But even as he watched the story unfold on the island, Martinez himself had his own adversities that he fought against, “You know it’s hard when you want to have a conversation with your teammate and he there’s the language barrier, ”adding that even the culture shock of being in a country much more developed than Cuba was an adjustment.
Through it all, he never forgot what his main goal was and why he was doing it, the country he loved and left behind and for all those who sacrificed themselves to help him achieve. his dream.
Martinez might be fighting for something bigger, but that hasn’t taken his attention away from the game, which is why he’s dazzled Diamond all season and was named Double-A South Player of the Week for the first time in his career with the Trash Pandas.
“It was something very exciting,” Martinez said he was proud of himself for having had such a great week. “What struck me the most was first and foremost the first week of the season. In one game, I hit three home runs, I had never done that in my career,” smiling as he thought back “I was extremely happy and so were my parents,” Martinez said.
Playing for Jay Bell, Martinez says it’s a dream come true for him, “You can tell he cares about his players”, as he sees himself capable of making his big-league dreams come true, he knows he is. ‘he can’t do it. without those who are most important to him.
“Mom, dad, thank you for the support always,” Martinez said happily, “Their wishes to always see me triumph, their desire to want me to reach the highest point in baseball, they are my greatest source of energy. to go out and play, stay healthy and make my dreams come true.
There is more to a Cuban baseball player than his raw talent, his wrestling is what makes him so great. These men often leave behind everything they know, their family, friends and part of their hearts in the hope of a better life. From the sobs of leaving loved ones to the roar of thousands of people cheering them on, they can’t help but feel indifferent.
Grateful for the opportunity for a better life, but the heartache of not being able to see where they hit their first home run or where they first learned to swing a bat, these memories are just that, memories.
The last withdrawal is called, another day has passed and another game is won. Running towards the canoe, they hear the glory of all the screaming fans. But, one thing is certain, this extra bounce in their step, the kiss they throw towards the sky, this walking music that brings the island to the United States, it is for Cuba.
Never knowing if they will see the house or their loved ones again, they continue to hope. For Cubans, baseball isn’t just baseball, it’s Cuba.
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