MIAMI, FL– Being present for these World Baseball Classic games has been a pleasure beyond the games. I have had the pleasure of seeing friends, former players, former LatinoMVP winners and other baseball personnel. One of those that I was delighted to connect with was, Juan “Igor” González former outfielder for the Texas Rangers who had won three LatinoMVP awards. Juan and I saw each other during Team Puerto Rico’s batting practice. Juan had always been a humble and down to earth player even when he was the superstar of his time. I had not seen Juan since his retirement in 2005. Yet when he saw me, he yelled out my name, came over and we hugged.
He chided with me saying where I have been? How was I? What was I up to these days? It was a sincere pleasure and the highlight of my day to once again connect with a former super star player and more importantly, a super star of a human being.
We could not spend more than a few minutes as the team was about to finish batting practice, but Juan took a few minutes to have the following interview with me.
LS: What a pleasure to see you, Juan “Igor” González. A player that gave us much pleasure in New York whenever your team visited New York. I always remember that time when you and I were leaving Yankee Stadium and the owner George Steinbrenner ran into us, he pointed at you and said, “I want to see you in my team.” You and I looked at each other and you said, “Did you hear what he told me.” Well from those times to here, what are you doing in Puerto Rican baseball that people are recognizing you so much that many wanted you to be the leader here?
JG: First of all, Thank God. I am honored that I am working with the national team and on the island, I’m managing a team that plays double AA amateur baseball. I am dedicating my time to the youth, the young boys to see if they can raise the spirit of baseball in Puerto Rico because baseball is not like the time when we grew up. Today, there is a lot of talent but there is a lot of distraction. We help to diminish that distraction from a lot of the boys, placing more emphasis on playing baseball.
LS: What is it that you bring to the field that many in Puerto Rico tell me that you are a great manager that has won many awards and championships, what do you bring to the game?
JG: First of all, To God. I share knowledge with the boys, and I lower myself to their level. I let them be them and have fun and nothing else. Everyone, well, they respond to me and has fall into place.
LS: Now speaking of the most prestigious award, celebrating its 33 years, the LatinoMVP awards. As you remember, the awards began in 1990 when we awarded Ruben Sierra for his 1989 season when many believed that he was denied the American League MVP award. You won the award three times. Since then, much has occurred and today there is the possibility that MLB would be interested in licensing and promoting the award. What are your thoughts of MLB taking the award which is an award exclusively for Latinos?
JG: Well, if Major League Baseball takes that award and makes it exclusive, it would be a privilege for us Latin Americans. That award started in the Bronx, it was born under Julio Pabón’s tutelage and has reached that level. It means that MLB wants to recognize something that is good. I will feel proud because I won it three times and everyone who wins it from then on has to feel super proud for being Latino. A Latino player being recognized by MLB, Latino Sports and the Latino community is an award that should continue.
LS: What do you think that the award is being labeled by some as the Grammy of baseball?
JG: (Smiling) Definitely so. That’s how it is, the baseball Grammy award.
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