photo: Members of the Seville Red Sox practicing on the baseball field at Amate Park. ROXANA DELGADO
Baseball is a sport not so well known in Spain. However, it is one way that many Latin American immigrants, such as José Antonio Carcamo, remember their native land. José Antonio’s passion for this sport deeply embedded into his cultural roots has helped him throughout his transition.
The ones who wear tracksuit pants and t-shirts release a great laugh when they see one of their teammates dressed in blue Hawaiian shorts walking on to the field. “You are missing the surfboard!” shouts one of the players. The baseball field of Amate Park comes to life when the players of the Seville Red Sox begin to arrive, placing their bats, balls and gloves by the dugout.
Under the cloudless sky and bright sunshine, they begin practice with a few laps around the diamond followed by stretches on the artificial turf. After several squats and arms circles, they drink some water, grab their gloves and walk towards the field. With just two hours for practice, there’s no time to waste.
Located in center FIELD, behind second base, José Antonio, 30, concentrates on the pitcher while a new batter steps up to the plate. Leaning in, José Antonio places his arms in front of his knees, which are slightly bent. In this position, he is ready for any motion. First pitch, strike. Second, ball. Third pitch, CRACK! The batter hits the ball hard, up towards the sky. Sprinting, José Antonio positions himself right underneath the ball. Using his left hand, he protects himself from the sun and manages to catch the ball with his right. “Come on, keep going!” he yells as he throws it back to the pitcher.
“I’ve always had baseball in my blood,” says José Antonio, who at the age of eight began playing baseball in his hometown of Posoltega in the region of Chinandega, Nicaragua, two hours northwest of the capital, Managua. “All of the children from the neighborhood would get together and play for hours!” Driven by his love for the sport, José Antonio played for multiple teams. “My first team was Los Novatos, a youth league. I was always told I had great speed and my coverage in center field was spectacular,” he says.
Although he had so much potential, he was denied the opportunity to play in a first division team because he did not meet the requirements. “My height interfered with the opportunity. They told me I needed to eat more iron to grow or stretch my ears above my head!” José Antonio chuckles. “I decided to then retire for a while and concentrate on other things.”
“In Posoltega, one lives a calm life,” he describes. However, the economic situation has caused a large part of the population to emigrate to other countries. “I come from a working family. But one day, a friend who lived in Spain sent me a photo of him smoking a bill of much value.” With this image in mind, on January 31, 2005 José Antonio took advantage of the fact that Nicaraguans do not need a visa and bought a plane ticket to visit Spain.
With the help of his sister Marta, José Antonio had a smooth transition to life in Zaragoza. However, he describes that it was difficult to find work. “When the crisis in Spain began in 2007, I struggled to keep a job. Many places left me hanging so I decided to come to Seville.” Once there, he took on multiple jobs. “I took care of horses, was a taxi driver, and I even bought and sold newspapers.” He was then very fortunate to meet Domingo Marin, a kind man who offered him accommodations in his own apartment and even provided him with work for the Global Company of Cereal, an organization dedicated to the import and export of several types of cereal and animal feed. To this day, José Antonio and Domingo Marin continue to work there.
José Antonio’s past as a ballplayer in Nicaragua and his current economic stability in Seville have encouraged him and allowed him to co-sponsor a baseball team in his hometown for four consecutive years alongside his brother. “There are many players in my town who are really good, but due to the lack of resources cannot continue playing. There are people who work in the fields earning 400 pesos a month, and a pair of baseball shoes costs almost that,” he explains. “During that time we would send them money to buy bats and balls. My sister helped make the uniforms, which we sent from Zaragoza. We’d stitch the name of the team on the shirts and the name of my brother, Sergio, who passed away a couple of years ago and was my favorite baseball player. Today with the birth expenses of my one-year-old daughter, Sofia, I can no longer continue to sponsor.”
Ten years after his arrival in Spain, José Antonio continues to miss his country. After much searching, he found a little piece of home with the Seville Red Sox, whom he joined as a center-fielder. Although the teammates have ruby shirts that read “Sevilla,” in italics, most represent another international teams of their own. “We are practically all Latino,” says José Antonio. “There are players here from Nicaragua, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and several others. What I like about the team is that we are committed. We are people who want to play.” Their loyalty to the team is demonstrated by their numerous championships titles. Last year, the team added a win in the Andalusian League to their records.
Although he wasn’t able to pursue a career in baseball, José Antonio is a great admirer of those who have made it to the major leagues from Latin American countries. “[I look up to] players like Sammy Sosa of the Dominican Republic and Vicente Padilla of Nicaragua. When players from our country reach the big leagues, we get so excited because it is our culture, our country, our people, our race that gets put in a higher place.”
José Antonio hopes to one day return to his friends and family in Chinandega. “I feel more alive in Nicaragua. I feel like half of my life is there,” he says. “When I return I’ll go as a citizen and help my people.” José Anotio dreams of having his own professional baseball team in Nicaragua and of sharing his love for the sport with his children. “One of my biggest dreams is to have my daughter play baseball. In Spain women’s baseball is not much, but maybe in Nicaragua it will be. Sofia could be the best fourth base.” •