The American Dream is still alive.
In this country’s fractured times, it’s inspiring to hear a story like Randy Arozarina’s.
He was born in Cuba but wanted to play baseball in the United States. That’s not allowed.
So, risking his life and liberty, in 2015 he stole away in the dark of the night on a boat and made the treacherous 120-mile journey from the westernmost shore of Cuba to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
Commenting on Arozarena’s situation, fellow Cuban escapee Leonys Martin, who took a similar journey out of Cuba, said the dangers are overwhelming. If you’re caught in Cuba, “you are ruined.” Certainly jailed, maybe executed. You could “die in the open sea.” Once you get to Mexico “you can be kidnapped or killed, you really have no idea what you are getting yourself into.”
But the lure of America was worth the risk for Arozarena. He played professional baseball in Mexico, hoping to get the chance to be discovered. He was. The St Louis Cardinals scouted him and signed him. The kid can hit.
He got into nineteen games at the end of 2019 for the Cardinals, batting .300 with an on-base percentage of .395. But when the Cardinals eliminated the Braves from the playoffs, he thought it would be funny to live stream his manager’s profanity laced victory speech from the locker room.
The Cardinals didn’t agree. That offseason they traded him to the Rays, an organization famous for finding great talent cast off from other clubs.
But his 2020 season was derailed when he tested positive for COVID-19. He finally made his Rays debut August 30. And he never stopped hitting. He had the second-most home runs of any major leaguer in September, ending the season with an incredible OPS+ of 179, meaning his production is 79 percent better than the average major leaguer. Joey Gallo’s, by comparison, was 84.
And Arozarena kept hitting in the post-season. He was 12-for-20 in Tampa Bay’s first two rounds of playoffs, with seven extra base hits and, after last night’s game-tying solo shot, now five home runs.
Teammate Tyler Glasnow called him “the best on earth.”
He’s a rookie. He’s an immigrant. He defected from Cuba. He’s living his dream. And he’s the difference maker for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Nice story any time. Even nicer story these days.