BakerBoys&Baseball Go Bilingual, Solamente un Poquito

This installment from the BakerBoys&Baseball is long overdue.  Just before the Halos 2015 season came up just one game short of the playoffs, we had the great pleasure of sitting down with Angel’s broadcaster and fan favorite, José MotaWe had Zac’s baseball buddy and good friend, Ethan “Bear” Geiss join the BakerBoys team and help us on the interview by asking some of the questions in Spanish.  Like Zac, Bear is 9 years old and he participates in a dual emersion program, learning in both English and Spanish from the time he started Elementary School.

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En primer lugar, permítanme applogize a José por el tiempo que ha tomado para compartir esta historia. La tarea de llevar a cabo una entrevista y traducir en dos idiomas resultó un poco más difícil de lo previsto. Dicho esto, el tiempo y las historias compartidas José eran muy apreciado y la entrevista fue uno de nuestros favoritos de la temporada pasada.

 

We had intended to share this story after the regular season concluded, and hopefully before the Halos would start a historic playoff run.  Unfortunately, the tough month of August left the team just short of the promise land, in spite of an incredible September stretch run that saw our Angels push their rivals until the very last day of the regular season.  With that, we decided to wait until the new season began to share this story.

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José was kind enough to sit down with us before a game on the Fox Sports West set before one of the games on the last home stand of the season.  Growing up the son of Manny Mota, a professional baseball player from the Dominican Republic, baseball was a way of life for a young José Mota “The Dominican Republic is a very special place to grow up.  We could play baseball year round”, José shared.  “My father played for the most popular team in the Dominican and I got to meet a lot of baseball players even before they became Big Leaguers, including Mike Scoiscia“. 

José was destined to have a professional career in the game of baseball.  He said, “At about eleven or twelve, I told my Dad I wanted to be a professional baseball player.  He agreed to help me, but insisted that first I had to study and get an education.  When I was growing up in the Dominican, we played baseball year round, but only on Saturdays.  If I didn’t get good grades, I wasn’t allowed to play baseball.” 

In 1962, Manny Mota was the 10th player from the Dominican to play Major League Baseball.  Since then more than 500 players, including José and his brother, Andy, have played on Baseball’s Senior Circuit.  Five out of six of Manny’s sons played some level of professional baseball.  Baseball affords young men from the Dominican a way to provide for families, as opportunities for financial success in the Dominican Republic are very limited.

Although there is a true love of baseball in José’s heart, you can tell his disappointment in how the nature of the game has changed in Dominican, “Baseball has become such a big industry.  It has taken some of the fun out of it.   There are those who see a young talent as a product they can sell.  Players at the age of 14 or 15 years old stop going to school and are pushed to pursue baseball full time.”  He doesn’t hold it against the young men who see the opportunities afforded those that succeed in the game.  “They see the business side of it.  They want to provide for their families, build a house for their Mom and have a good life.  The professions in the Dominican will not allow that type of luxury or attain that financial level.” 

While disenchanted with the business side of the game, there is a tangible pride José has when sharing the impact his family and other players have had on the opportunities and resources available to the youth in the Dominican Republic.  José said, “We were very fortunate because of my Dad’s baseball career.  We got to travel to the United States every year.  When we would come back home, we would provide stuff for the kids to play with.  There were kids that couldn’t afford shoes or a glove and we would bring stuff back from the United States to share with them.  Some of those same kids went on to become Major Leaguers.”

While Manny Mota helped shape the man and player José would become, it was his mother that was tasked with running the Mota household and making sure that José and his five brothers and two sisters stayed in line and worked hard in school, while Dad was away playing baseball.  Speaking about his mother, José said, “Mom was our rock.  She ran our house.”  Like Manny, she stressed the importance of getting an education first, above baseball.  She would say, “as much as you love baseball, you need to go to school.  One moment you could be playing and the next you could be injured and your playing days could be over.  Then what would you do?”  It was the consistent message from both of his parents, that made getting a college education a goal that was equal to pursuing a career as a professional player.

It wasn’t just his parents that stressed the importance of education.  When getting to spend his summer months hanging out at Dodgers Stadium, there were many, including Tommy Lasorda, that told José to “study hard and shoot for college.”  Tommy would say, “Little Mota, you need to work hard and stay out of trouble.” 

José did work hard, but he also had a lot of fun spending his summers hanging around the team.  “The players were always so nice to us and that came down from the O’Malley family.  Kids were welcomed in the club house, in the food/candy room.”   The Mota kids even had their own lockers inside the Club House.  I am sure Adam LaRoche would have loved to play for the O’Malley’s  Dodgers.

For José, the unique experience he enjoyed wasn’t just play time.  He took advantage of being around professional ball players and the game he loved.  José explained, “I learned a lot by listening and watching.  I could tell that in order to succeed, it would take a lot of hard work.  I spent a lot of time in the batting cages at Dodger’s stadium.  I would taking batting practice in the cages during the games.”  He also learned to respect the game.  He knew if the Dodgers had lost a game, “he needed to give the players their space and stay out of the club house.”

José took the advice of his parents, players, and other baseball professionals and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Cal State Fullerton, where he also was a two time Collegiate All American and starting 2nd baseman for the 1984 National Champion Titans.  For José’s accomplishments as a baseball player, he is most proud of being a part of that special team that won the Championship, saying “I wouldn’t trade that time for anything, not even playing in the Big Leagues.  I learned what it meant to play as a team, to be part of a group working for the same goal.  It wasn’t about getting paid or being called up, it was about winning!  I learned what it takes to be a part of something bigger, knowing I had to do my job and trusting that everyone else was doing their job to come together for a common goal.  It was the best time I ever had playing baseball.” 

José did achieve his goal of following in his father’s footsteps and he did play in the Major Leagues.  José played on eleven different Minor League teams over parts of twelve seasons.  His time playing at baseball’s highest level was brief, in 19 games, he had 8 hits in 38 at-bats, resulting in a .211 batting average. He scored four runs and drove in two more.  José believes that had he been given more of an opportunity, he certainly would have had a more success as a player.  That said, he did not give any indication that he had a single regret about his playing days, “achieving my goal of playing in the Major Leagues was a great feeling.  I know that I gave it my best and where I am today is God’s plan.  The opportunity the game has given me, has allowed me to provide for my family.  Because I had my college degree, I was able to walk away from the game and pursue different careers within the game.  I didn’t have to be a player that had to keep hanging on for a paycheck.”

Before beginning his broadcasting career, José became a Sports Agent.  He recognized the he had to the chance to help Latin players in the game.  Being bilingual he was able to make the players feel comfortable.  Like José when he was a young boy, the culture in the United States is very different from the hometowns of many Latin players.  It was a similar sentiment shared with us by Josh Rawitch, Sr. VP of Communications for the Arizona Diamondbacks, “There is a level of comfort when being able to have someone you can trust, that you can communicate with in your native language.”  I am sure that young Bear will also take advantage of the opportunities being bilingual will provide him, after achieving his own goal of playing professional baseball.

After his time working as an Agent, José began his career in Sports Broadcasting.  His love for the job is undeniable, “I would not trade places with anyone.  Not with Mike Trout or Albert Pujols, I love what I do every single day, I wouldn’t trade with anyone.  I am doing exactly what I am supposed to do.”  When he spoke about his broadcasting career, José said, “I am so blessed.  My first broadcasting job, I got to cover the Angels when they won the World Series in 2002.  I was so fortunate to be able to be cover that special team.”  He spoke with a clear admiration for the 2002 team and named almost every player when asked which players on last year’s roster were his favorites.  I am sure feels just as fondly about the team this season.

A fan favorite because of his passion for the players and the game of baseball, José had this message to share, “I am a Dad and a Husband who loves spending time with my family.  I enjoying reading the word of God and am truly blessed.”  His message to the kids who are his fans, “Never give up on your dreams and set no limits for yourself.  Stay positive and do the best with the talents God has given you.  He gave you those talents for a reason.  Don’t compare yourself with anyone else, but don’t put any limits on what you can do.”

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To José from Zac, Ethan, and me, our sincerest thank you for sharing your time and your story with us.  The BakerBoys&Baseball will continue to share our baseball stories and experiences for the upcoming season.  We are not quite sure where the next story will come from, but we would still love the chance to meet with Tim Mead, the Angels Vice President of Communications.  For our friends at the Stadium, we have moved our season seats to the Angels side of the field this season, Section 111, Row N.  If you are at the stadium come say hi, share your baseball stories with us and make suggestions for the next installment.  The first two games against Joe Maddon’s  Cubbies were tough, but we believe the 2016 Angels are capable of capturing the magic the 2002 team had!  In the meantime, keep filling the in between pauses with meaningful, thoughtful moments and go out to the ball park and have some fun with your friends and family!

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