There is a place in Venezuela called Calabozo. It’s a small city of about 100,000 people, and a 15-year-old boy is waiting for a bus. He wants to go to a city called Maraca. He’s heard rumors that there’s a tryout there.
It’s 200 kilometers away. Over mountains, across water. It took me about four hours. We made it there, but the results were disastrous. I paled in comparison to the stellar competitors. No one bats an eye. I trudge back. Someone says something. “Hey, can we see you again in a month? Come with a little more preparation.”
It’s vague. A month at most. What difference does it make? I can’t wait to go home and see my family. Especially his mother, who had high hopes. “It didn’t work out,” she says, “I only got 78 mph (125 km/h).”
But her mother was intrigued. She said she’d be back in a month. “You mean you’re really going to see me again?” From that day on, the rigors of camp began. At 5:00 a.m., the alarm goes off. “Get up.” My mom is in full-on teaching assistant mode. With a scary look on her face, she pushes me relentlessly. Running, lifting weights, running again, pitching…. I roll, roll, roll until I’m exhausted.
It’s the appointed time. I leave for Marakai again. Second audition. This time, 85 miles (137 kilometers). I only faced two batters, and that was enough to get the OK. “You’ll be 16 in September?” I’m at the age where I can sign a contract.
He hands me a business card in English. His name is Jose Leone. He’s the Venezuelan scout for the Minnesota Twins. He has a $150,000 down payment. Now there’s only one problem. If he signs, he’ll have to move away from his family. He’ll have to take lessons in the Dominican League.
His mother squeezes his hand. “You shouldn’t be a street vendor like me. You should be a baseball player,” she says, and they part ways. Bruce the Graterol, now 25, has been on his own ever since. He bounced between the Dominican Republic and the United States. It’s a rough and tumble minor league life.
And it’s been a long time coming. Yesterday (Aug. 20), it was Dodger Stadium. A game against the Tigers. In the eighth inning, the home team’s third pitcher, Graterol, takes the mound. The broadcast camera zooms in on someone in the dugout suite. It’s her mother (Ismalia Graterol), who was separated from her in Venezuela.
She retires the next three batters to end the inning. As her son walks to the dugout, he raises his hand and points in her direction. He has to cover his face with his glove to hide the tears that are flowing. He is already a recognized major leaguer. He is a set-up man for the prestigious Dodgers. In 64 games this season, he is 4-2 with seven saves and a 1.28 ERA.
He touched 85 mph as a 15-year-old and now easily tops 100 mph, touching 103 on a good day. It’s not a straight fastball, either. It’s a sinker with a sharp drop. He’s one of the most promising arms in the Dodgers bullpen.카지노
He’s always worried about his mother. He was worried about the instability and security in his hometown. To make matters worse, relations between the United States and Venezuela were deteriorating. Bringing her home became increasingly difficult. Still, I didn’t give up. After a long struggle, I was able to get some important documents two weeks ago (presumably for a visa or green card).
Finally, two days ago, we were reunited at LAX. The last time I saw her was seven years ago. “The first moment I saw him, my mother said, ‘My son has grown up so big and beautiful,'” says the 25-year-old, who weighs more than 260 pounds (120 kilograms). “I hugged her and she smelled like home.”
The son’s story continues. “When I was 14 or 15 years old, I was going back and forth, and a lot of my friends were getting into drugs and gangs, and the only thing that kept me playing baseball was my mom (she’s a former softball player).”
It’s a night when he can’t stop talking. “Even after I left Venezuela, I had a lot of difficulties: when I made my debut, when I got married, when I had my daughter. My mom wasn’t there, and I wanted her to see me throw on a major league mound, and today I got to do that.”