By: Jay Wallis
Double-A baseball teams play 140 regular season games over a span of five months. The commitment goes far beyond this as players have spring training beforehand and possible postseason play afterward. To add to this, while it is too cold to play in America during the winter months, many players will travel and compete in offseason leagues overseas.
Professional baseball at any level requires dedication, sacrifice and effort to achieve sustained success. Challenges and changes inevitably emerge at any stage of a player’s career, whether in rookie ball or on the doorstep of a major league call-up.
Many players have to face these obstacles with their families scattered across the country or even the globe. However, in spite of distance and other obstacles, many RoughRiders make a diligent effort to keep their families as close as possible.
Frisco pitcher Kyle Lotzkar decided to forgo college and enter the amateur draft. The reliever was selected 53rd overall and took his talents to the Cincinnati Reds.
When Lotzkar was 17, he left his Canadian hometown of Tsawwassen to play pro ball in the United States. He traveled south to Sarasota, Florida to play for a Reds affiliate in a rookie league. Living out of a hotel with some teammates, Lotzkar wasn’t completely ready for his new life.
“During the first couple of months, I got homesick quick,” Lotzkar said. “Most guys were like three or four years older than me. Luckily, since I signed in the summer, I only had to play about four months and then I got back home. I’ve worked to stay in touch with my family ever since.”
As if the rigorous training a pitcher goes through wasn’t enough, the young Lotzkar had to push himself to work every day, literally.
“I didn’t have a car and didn’t have any money to start,” Lotzkar said, “We actually managed to find a really greasy, used car dealership and we rented a car for literally five bucks a day,” Lotzkar said. “It was something like an old 1996 Ford Explorer we’re driving around, and it’d barely even make it to the field. We ended up pushing it almost every other day just to get it started. So that’s kind of how we survived—we were paying five bucks a day for a rental car.”
Shortstop Guilder Rodriguez also came from a foreign country to play professional baseball in the U.S. Like Lotzkar, the Venezuelan veteran understands the value of an American dollar.
“During my first three or four years, I didn’t have a cell phone,” Rodriguez said. “Not too many players in rookie ball had cell phones. So I paid to use a phone card in a station for five dollars and it gave me five minutes for a call to Venezuela. I then had a fast conversation with my family and checked on my father, mother, brother and sisters. I tried to talk to everybody in my family for five dollars. It was crazy.”
Now in his 14th season, G-Rod has his own cell phone and is often seen talking to his family at the ballpark before games. The knowledge his family is back home rooting him on is the perfect drive to push through the long season.
“My father and my whole family are just happy because not too many players have the opportunity to play here for a long time,” Rodriguez said. “My father always told me, ‘I want to see you one day in the big leagues.’ He saw me and now sees me. It’s the dream.”
Even though Rodriguez has been able to fly his parents in from Venezuela a few times to see him play, not all his teammates are as fortunate.
Edwar Cabrera isn’t here to just play baseball; the 26-year-old lefty is here to support his family back in the Dominican Republic. Cabrera has a dream of one day seeing his family in America, sitting in seats, watching him on the mound. This process, though, can be complicated.
“I really want to try and bring my family here so they can see me pitch,” Cabrera said. “It’s a little bit hard because in the Dominican, some people don’t have visas. I want them to all get visas one day, and I want to bring them all over here to watch.”
Cabrera doesn’t let this complication get in the way of hearing his mom’s advice. If you happen to be in the ballpark a few hours before a ‘Riders game, there is a good chance you’ll find Cabrera, headphones in, sitting near the batting cages attentively listening to his mom.
“I am always talking to my mom,” Cabrera said. “Every day, she says, ‘You have to think God first.’ He will take care of you. She reminds me to remember that no matter where you are or what level you are playing, tell yourself every single day that God comes first and then everything else second. That talk helps me get through everything.”
Whatever route they took along the way, these three have paved individual paths in order to reach their destination. Sometimes it has taken a little push to get an old car to the ballpark or a nudge from a family member thousands of miles away, but no matter the means, these RoughRiders have worked to maintain in Frisco what they left behind—home.