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One on One interview with 2021 AL LatinoMVP Reliever/Closer award winner, Jonathan Loáisiga

Yesterday Latino Sports had the opportunity to sit down in the Yankee dugout in an informal setting to talk to the 2021 AL LatinoMVP Relief/Closer of the year winner, Jonathan Loáisiga. The following is part of that interview.

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LS: We are here in Yankee Stadium with Jonathan the winner of the American League 2021 Latino MVP reliever/closer award.

Jonathan, we want to congratulate you for winning an award that perhaps you don’t know too much about.  This award started in 1989 when a Puerto Rican by the name of Ruben Sierra, playing for the Texas Rangers had a very good year and many thought that he was going to be the MVP of the American League. Unfortunately, when the BBWAA released the results, they gave the award to Robin Yount.  Many in the Latino community felt that Sierra was overlooked and that is how this award was born.

After much conversation with the Yankees, we wound up giving Sierra that award here in the old Yankee stadium in April of 1990. It was the first time that the Yankees allowed an award ceremony for a non-Yankee player. We then decided that we should give this award every year and today we are celebrating our 32nd anniversary and this is the award that you won.

LS: Question: So now Jonathan that you know the history of this award how you feel about winning this award.

JL: Well first I must give thanks to God for giving me another day of life to allow me to be here doing what I like. I am very happy and I’m very proud to receive this award that recognizes the work of us Latinos in the major leagues. This is a blessing from God to be voted to be the best Latino reliever in the American League

LS: And now that you know how this award started what do you think about having an award exclusively for Latino baseball players.

JL: like I said that’s an honor. It’s something very beautiful that there are people and organizations outside of baseball that look to respect and to honor the work that we’re doing as Latino baseball players. I pray that you continue to do this because that motivates us Latino players to get better to do well in our job and to represent our countries in Latin America.

LS: This is the first award you’re going to win with us, how old are you?

JL: I’m 27

LS: You know how many times Mariano Rivera won this same award?

JL: (laughing) I imagine he won that many times as he was (Laughing) the best closer of all time. Mariano Rivera was from another world he’s from another time, he was like the best reliever, his record is set & that record is going to be there forever.

LS: Mariano won it I believe 6, or 7 times. and I remember in one of the award ceremonies he said winning the award was one of the best awards he’s received because it was coming from his Latino community. Other baseball players who have won the award more than once were, Albert Pujols who holds the record he has won it approximately 8 times. Big Papi has won it three times. So, you as a young player are on a list with many great players that have won this prestigious award. Also because of your young age you have plenty of opportunities to win another award. (We both laughed).

Fun interview with Jonathan who shared a lot of himself with laughter and insight. (Photo Latino Sports)

JL: that’s an honor for me to be on the list with so many Caballos (Spanish word describing strong stallions) great superstar Latino players that have won this award. Pujols, Mariano, David Ortiz players in the Hall of Fame or Pujols who will also be in the Hall of Fame. The fact that they have won the Latino MVP award that’s also something that probably motivated them. This award that you give is something that helps to motivate us players. I hope we continue to win more.

LS: Do you know that your award is not a trophy it’s not a plaque it is something special something that when you receive it perhaps your mother, or another family member, someone in your family is going to want it to put it on display. It’s a painting.

JL: I have always said that when someone gives you something out of love, no matter how small, it could be a piece of gum it’s something to appreciate. I know you guys do this out of love and that’s something that I appreciate. The fact that some people took the time to recognize the work that one is doing and give that type of award, you know it’s an award that’s given with a lot of love and I receive it like that with a lot of love.

LS: We want you to know that Latino sports is not just to report on the box scores but to also report like this interview with you about other issues and other things that affect the players in and outside of baseball, how they got to the big leagues? Because we know that some players who might not even be starters, but if they are on the roster, we know it wasn’t easy to get there. So, no matter whether they are a star player or not the fact that they are on a Major League team for us they are a role model because we know it was not easy.

JL: it was a very hard road to travel, a lot of obstacles to get here. We had to leave our families we had to leave our countries we had to leave the things that we were familiar with. Especially in the minor leagues it was very, very hard. Being alone, sometimes you had to tighten your stomach a little to survive economically and to be able to make it with limited resources. Not speaking the English language, it was difficult. It was hard surviving to get here, I have to give a lot of credit a lot of praise to God. You have to learn how to appreciate getting here.

LS: So, people can know a little bit about your background where did you come from in Nicaragua?

JL: I come from an area of Nicomarca Santo Domingo Nicaragua, it’s a place out not far from the capital. I was there with my family I was raised by my grandfather. For me it’s an honor to represent Nicaragua and represent Latinos and Latin America.

LS: when did you start in baseball?

JL: I started in baseball when I was 7

LS: You started at the age of seven? You grabbed your first baseball at the age of seven?

JL: Yes, my grandfather took me to a baseball game at the age of seven it was a minor league team for the first time and watching that game I fell in love with it. I also have baseball in my blood my father played professional baseball my brother played professional baseball. One was signed by the Dodgers.

LS: your father played professional baseball where, in Nicaragua?

JL: My father was in the Expos organization. He played with Vladimir Guerrero.

LS: So, you had no option you had to be a baseball player it was in your blood.

JL: Laughing, yes, and my grandfather also played baseball in Nicaragua. It’s in my blood, I had to play. Yes, when I realized this was part of my blood, I focus all on baseball. I left school unfortunately, but I just concentrated on baseball. And thank God I am here.

LS: At what age did you realize that this was not just a sport for you, a fun game but that you realized that this was going to be like a career, and you began to take this seriously.

JL: Honestly kind of late I was already 17. I was playing the outfield in Nicaragua. I had a good arm I was throwing hard from the outfield and one day a friend told me that I should get ready. He told me that a scout from Arizona is doing some tryouts and they want to see you throw because they said you throw hard. When I got there, they sent me to the mound. I threw the ball at 88 mph they asked me again to come to another tryout and again I was throwing at 88 miles an hour at the age of 17. The scout from the Giants told me that if I changed from outfield to pitcher, I would have a better chance of making it. So, I concentrated on being a pitcher. I prepared myself for a month and a half and I was signed by the Giants.

LS: So, you went from outfield to pitcher

JL: Yes, I also had pitched when I was in the little leagues. I pitched a no hitter.  Then I also wanted to be a good batter but at that time I was only 130 pounds but at 130 pounds I did not have the power, but I was still pitching at 88 miles an hour. Once I was signed my first year was good. Unfortunately, I was injured on my second year I was let go. I stayed in Nicaragua I worked and played in the winter league. Then I signed a contract to play in Italy. I also was playing in Mexico. Then I was going to the pre-classic in Mexico representing Nicaragua. At the end of the winter league in Nicaragua my father called me with the Yankee scout, Edgar Rodriguez who was with another Panamanian scout and they wanted to talk to me. They said they thought that I had a better chance to maybe go back into the major leagues and within a week I was signed by the Yankees

LS: As you have stated, God is great.

JL: Yes, God gave me a second opportunity to make it to the majors and I said if God gave me this second chance, I’m going to take advantage. I am going to prepare to the max to really get to the professional leagues. I went to the Dominican Republic to play in the baseball Academy there, then I went back to Mexico and back to the Dominican Republic. Then they brought me here to the United States to the minor league team in Tampa.  I was there a month and a half, and they moved me up to class A then I got injured again. I don’t know if that was a test because I really thought at that point of quitting. I wanted to throw in the towel.  Friends and family were encouraging me to just stay and not think like that. I mean I was tired I had too many injuries I said this maybe is not for me, but the advice that I got I was told that these are obstacles that are put in our paths just to make us stronger. I prayed every night and look where I’m at today.

LS: You had faith?

JL: Yes, faith can move mountains. I continued to work hard in 2018 I was brought up. In 2019 I pitched OK, in 2020 we had a very short season then 2021 I established myself in the big leagues

LS: You established yourself so well that you got selected to be on the ballot of the most prestigious award given to Latino baseball players and you were voted on by the sportswriters and you won the award. That’s why we are here today talking to you because on the 27th you’re going to be on that field in front of your fans receiving an award from us, Latino Sports

JL: Thank God, 2021 went well. I came in at the last innings of the games and I was able to hold the opposing teams and help the team.  That helped me a lot to be able to pitch in important moments unfortunately this year I haven’t come back as strong, but with God ahead and faith I’m sure I’m going to get better.

LS: that’s one of the features of this award we never give it on the season in which the players won because we don’t want to give it at a time when the BBWAA give their awards and it gets confused. That’s why we give our awards on the following season, so the 2021 award is going to be given to you now. Many times, when giving the award the season after some players have thanked us because they tell us that they needed the motivation from the previous year so they could improve.

JL: Yes, that’s the way it is. Thank you because this award is going to remind me of the great season, I had last year. I always think that was last year but now I must focus on this year, and I must improve my numbers that’s what you want as a professional baseball player, not to be happy with what happened the previous year only but let’s keep on working to get better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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