A Mixing Pot in the Tribe Clubhouse
On the outside, the Tribe clubhouse might not say much. On the inside, however, it tells a much different story; one of seeking opportunity and the mix of players from not just one or two countries at a time, but eight all together.
From Canada to Colombia to Lithuania, just to name a few, the Tribe roster is scattered with representation around the world, and more so now than in seasons past. In 2018, roughly 20 percent of the Indians total roster was made up of foreign-born players. Now, that number has jumped to almost 30 percent.
"I think we have a really good clubhouse," said Venezuelan Jose Osuna, who was also on the roster in 2018. "We are in a good position; we're fighting to get into first place. We're really united right now."
The prospect of professional baseball brings in athletes from anywhere and everywhere, all with a common goal of winning ballgames and making it to the big leagues.
Organized baseball is often a big change from how these players grew up, in very different ways for many different players.
In Mexico or Latin America, they didn't always have access to a field.
"We were always playing on the streets or wherever we could play with just any kind of stick or whatever ball we could find," said Eduardo Vera, a native of Merida, Mexico.
In Canada, the weather got the best of them.
"It's cold in Canada a lot of the year so we don't get to play as much for as long." Eric Wood said. "I guess we get four or five months of baseball."
In Colombia, baseball didn't present itself as an opportunity until later in childhood.
"I played soccer and some other athletic things, but then I started playing baseball when I was 10 years old," Luis Escobar said. "I joined a league - little leagues - before being signed by the Pirates when I was 17."
For a lot of these players, they were signed as non-drafted or international free agents at young ages, and futures in baseball from around the world are well known and growing in this age.
When a team comes knocking, the chance is almost too good to pass up.
"[I took] the opportunity to play here in the United States because it's a good opportunity for playing in the big leagues," Dario Agrazal said. "In [Panama] we don't have a lot of opportunity and the Pittsburgh Pirates saw me there and brought me to the United States. The best baseball is here."
It's not so much about the challenges that moving away from your home country - which sometimes means going halfway across the globe - but about what the future could hold.
Often times, the path has already been paved, whether it be by family members or those who come from the same country.
"I think baseball picked me, kind of," Lithuania native Dovydas Neverauskas said. "I was good at it outside when I was young and I started my first season here with the Pirates organization. My dad was a coach, so it goes along with that."
What often makes the transition to the United States culture of baseball easier is being in the same clubhouse as those who came with you.
The Dominican Republic is the most populated minority in the Indians dugout, with two current players and five total this season coming from there.
"When you have players like [Pablo] Reyes here and [Michael] Feliz at the beginning of the season from the Dominican Republic it's like having a brotherhood here," Jesus Liranzo said. "Even when they live in a different place in the Dominican Republic, they're from your home country so they have your back. It's great to have a couple guys from the same country playing with you."
Liranzo, a hard-throwing bullpen man for the Tribe, took English classes in the Dominican Republic prior to coming to the United States, which has helped bridge the communication gap that sometimes appears between pitchers and catchers.
Steven Baron, a catcher born in Miami, Fla., has stepped up into a bilingual role with the pitchers that isn't there without the presence of a fourth coach who fluently speaks both Spanish and English.
"I treat everyone the same," Baron said. "I do know Spanish and I can communicate with them to a certain extent and get along with them. We're all here to try and do the same thing and that's win ballgames."
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