Originally Published: Apr 16, 2010 9:31 PM CDT
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer
COLLINSVILLE, Oklahoma – It’s not in Iowa, but the baseball field at Collinsville is a “Field of Dreams” for three Puerto Rican natives.
“In Puerto Rico, there's a lot of crimes and stuff, and we don’t have a good economy,” Jose Olazagasti said. “Here, it's a better economy and better opportunity for jobs and college.”
Olazagasti, Luis DeJesus, and Peter Rodriguez left everything and came to the United States with hopes of baseball leading them to a better life. They are cared for by Nobie Hudson, a retired lawyer who became a caretaker for Puerto Rican high school players eight years ago.
“The people (in Puerto Rico) choose who comes. It’s not like I go down there and ask,” Hudson said. “It’s a hard thing for them to do, give up their children.”
“I feel blessed because he gave us an opportunity to come here and live with him,” DeJesus said. “He helps us with our hitting, he'll buy food for us, give us shelter, practice with us. He's basically like a father for us.”
All three players have delivered for Collinsville and all three have signed with area colleges. Olazagasti has signed with Seminole State College, DeJesus will be attending Eastern Oklahoma State, and Rodriguez is headed to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. The path to success has been far from a leisurely stroll, though.
“In Puerto Rico, all we do is play little league. We don't play baseball in high school. We play one or two games and if you lose, you’re out. So it was different coming here and playing 40 to 45 games,” Olazagasti said.
“Spanish is my first language, so it’s very hard when you come here and you don’t know anything,” Rodriguez said. “And I miss my family, it’s pretty hard not having your family around.”
Even though the families are not in the stands when they take the field, the players do their best to re-create the game through words.
“Everyday after a game, I tell them what I did and what I did wrong. They get pretty excited when I tell them I went 3-for-3 in a game,” Olazagasti said with a smile on his face.
While their ultimate goal is to play professional baseball, the players are gaining the skills for other jobs.
“We’re here for a college education,” DeJesus said. “If I get a chance to go to pro baseball, then I’ll go for it.”
“I keep telling them that you speak Spanish and you’re bilingual, there are a lot of jobs available to you,” Hudson said.
With the opportunity to play baseball comes great responsibility, and the players must walk a fine line off the field in order to prepare for the future.
“They have to cook, they clean, and they have to take care of their own clothes. I’m trying to get them prepared and go be on their own,” Hudson said.
Until they take that next step, the players will join their Cardinal teammates on the field and continue to pursue a better life.