Indians Pitcher Carlos Carrasco Shares Moving Story Of Making America His Home
Carlos Carrasco's story of becoming an American, which he recently wrote about for The Players' Tribune in celebration of our Independence Day, is one that has become increasingly rare. It is, however, the story of many of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. People we know and love, and people who are directly responsible for building the country we celebrate today.
His American experience, and his path to achieving the American dream, is the bedrock of the 21st century version of our nation. Carrasco's terrifying move to a beautiful place of philosophically indiscriminate opportunity is the same as every single foreigner who has become a part of this new, experimental nation that was born from the truly revolutionary belief that a modern society need not be ruled and oppressed but instead, empowered and free.
Carrasco is a Venezuelan-born pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, whose mother told him him at a young age that she believed in him and encouraged his talent. She taught him to take care of the second-hand mitt she bought for him on his 6th birthday. The first mitt that he'd ever owned, which he cleaned and rubbed in Vaseline for an hour every weekend.
When he finally got his chance to fly to the U.S. to play professional baseball, he hugged his mom goodbye, as she cried he told her, “I have to go, Mom. I have to go to America.”
He'd never been on a plane. He didn't speak English. He didn't even know that the team would have all brand new equipment (with MLB logos on it!) waiting for him when he arrived. He'd brought all his old stuff from home. When the bright-eyed young immigrant went to his first spring training, he ate Domino's pizza every single day for dinner because he didn't know how to order anything else. He was out of his element.
But when Carrasco arrived in Cleveland to play for the Indians, he decided that he would do his best to learn English, by speaking with his teammates and asking them to help him. He wanted to talk to the media, and help his kids with their schoolwork.
Once he had a working knowledge of the language, he decided to try to become a U.S. citizen. His wife had become a citizens a few years prior, so he carried the booklet with him everywhere that he went for the whole summer before his test - having his teammates quiz him on the obscure facts of our country's history.
He took that test on Aug. 4th, 2016, and was sworn in as an American citizen that day , as he had passed with flying colors. He called his mom on the way home and celebrated with her over the phone. Carlos Carrasco was a U.S. citizen, and the way he describes what that meant to him will give you chills:
The first road games we played after I became an American citizen were in New York and Washington, D.C. I’d been in America for 12 years. I’d flown in and out of those cities plenty of times before.
But this time, it felt different.
I looked out the window as we landed in Washington. The airport is beside the historic monuments. So you fly right over them before you land. I could see the Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument. The history behind them was my history now, too.
And then I stood out on the field at Nationals Park. The national anthem began to play and we all turned towards the flag. I’d heard the anthem before. I’ve looked at the U.S. flag for 162 games every season.
But ever since I became a U.S. citizen looking at the flag has meant something more.
It’s my anthem and my flag now, too.
The most important things to remember after hearing Carrasco's story of embracing America, of loving everything that it represents and who it has allowed him to become, is that he isn't special or rare. There are millions of people around the world and in our country right now who feel the same way about America and about being American as Carrasco does, but who do not have the means or opportunity to become a citizen - for whatever reason.
There are more people like Carrasco out there than you realize. So remember his journey to citizenship, because it's not a story about assimilation or "doing it the right way" - it's a story about what can happen when America gives someone a chance.
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