Ubaldo Jimenez: Transition to America, Part One
Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez carries a 5.24 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 19 games started with the Tribe this season. Jimenez recently caught up with TribeVibe and discussed his life in the Dominican Republic and his transition to the United States as a Major League Baseball player. Be sure to check back on TribeVibe tomorrow for Part 2 of Jimenez’s interview.
TribeVibe: How have your parents influenced you in your life?
Ubaldo Jimenez: When I started playing baseball — when I was really young — my dad was the one who taught me how to play catch, how to hit. [I was] five. He really worked hard trying to teach me how to hit because, I know, I was really bad at it. He was the one who taught me how to do everything. He was the one who got me into baseball.
TV: How many siblings do you have?
UJ: Just a sister. [She is] older. I’m the baby in the house. She is one year older than me. We were close. She is the only sister that I have. We fought every single day; we didn’t get along too well, but we are close.
TV: Did your family have a lot of money in the Dominican Republic?
UJ: No, I come from a really poor family. The thing is, my mom and my dad worked really hard every day so that we could get the food on the table every day. We never hungered or anything like that; we always had something to eat. The other thing is, they worked really hard to give us a good education. They put us in English class, French class, anything you can think of. They did it for us. They didn’t want us to be just another person. They didn’t want us to be like them; they didn’t have a chance to study because they were really poor. They worked really hard on that.
TV: How old were you when you started taking English class?
UJ: Probably eight.
TV: What was your dad’s job?
UJ: My dad, at first, was in the Dominican Army for 14 years. Then, he was a bus driver for the insurance company. My mom was a nurse.
TV: Did you attend high school?
UJ: Yes, the reason that I signed with the Rockies was because before I signed, they told my mom that they were going to allow me to finish high school. I was 17, and I only had two more months of high school to go. I did a tryout for the Mets, and they wanted to sign me when I was 16. My parents didn’t want me [to sign] because they wanted me to finish high school. I did a tryout with the Braves. The Rockies were the ones because their scout, Rolando Fernandez, was like, ‘Okay, are we going to sign him? Are we going to let him come back to his house and finish high school?’
TV: Did you spend a lot of time at the Rockies Academy?
UJ: Yes, when I signed, I was 17. I played in the Dominican for a year and a half. That’s in the Dominican Summer League. The next year, they sent me over [to the United States].
TV: What do they teach you at the academies?
UJ: They not only try to teach you about the baseball terms, they try to teach you things you can use on the street. [They teach you] how to talk to people if you meet someone, how to behave — especially with girls. American girls are really friendly, and that’s something that you have to learn as a Latin player. It’s a different culture. That’s something that they teach you. If you get to meet a girl for the first time, and they’re really friendly, it doesn’t mean that they want to be with you. That’s the way they are; they’re friendly. That’s something that you have to learn as a Latin player.
TV: Was there someone along the road who helped you the most with your English?
UJ: Yes, we had an American English teacher [at the academy], Lori Brown, who was teaching you not only about baseball but about English. She was involved in everything — getting you a host family, a place to stay, trying to go to stores with you so that you can buy the things you want for sure. She really helped me a lot.
-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor