July 31, 2021

From The Versailles Neighborhood To The United States: The Pitcher Who Dreams Of Major League Baseball

It was an afternoon in 2013, at the Sports Center of Velez Sarsfield. An ordinary afternoon, or not so much. Because fate, or who knows what, wanted that Ignacio Vazquez (18) came across a poster that he had never seen, even though he had been with the club for two or three years. “Baseball,” he read, and was shocked. His mom, who was with him, too. They knew the sport, but did not imagine that it could be practiced in the country. Much less, in the same place where he had tried soccer, taekwondo or basketball, and which was ten blocks from where they lived.

“My mother had played for the softball team, which is a cousin of baseball,” recalls Ignacio, following the same path he found that poster. “And I used to play with the children of their teammates, when we went to see our mothers play. But that day I saw the poster, I decided to start practicing it. I was 10 years old and I quickly decided: I left the other sports and I stayed with baseball. Soon I was called up for the first time from the National Team. ”

They are his last training sessions at the club. He has just received a scholarship to pursue his career at Missouri Valley College, in the United States, where he will study Marketing and train and play for the University team. “It is the first great step to fulfill my dream. Now I must stand out in the team and in the University League, so that the scouts of the Major League teams see me,” he adds.

Ignacio Vazquez came to baseball by chance, after seeing a sign on Velez’s door. Photo: Andres D’Elia.

So that the achievement dimension is taken: in the last twenty years, only four Argentines received scholarships to continue training in the land of “baseball”, as they say there. In addition, it aims to complete a university degree and receive a degree: Vázquez will live in one of the homes on the Campus. You will only have to pay for your stay and the four meals of the day. But the expense is the least of it. He says that the University will give him the opportunity to work in the cafeteria, or in maintenance or security at a gym on Campus. He goes to work, to save his parents the expense.

In American Baseball, there are two “routes” to becoming a professional player. The first is at the player’s 15 or 16 years of age, when they are summoned to play in the academies or subsidiaries that American teams open in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela or Brazil, among other countries, and are closely followed by the coaches. The other option is the university one: whoever stands out in the league, being around 21 years old, can sign a contract with a professional team.

The player who does not reach the Major Leagues has other alternatives, such as trying his luck in Europe. “Playing in Argentina is taking sports as a hobby; it is impossible to make a living from baseball. That is why several players are going to Italy or Germany: they pay you a salary, house, car, meals and they even offer you another job so that you save more That is my plan B “, analyzes Vázquez.

Ignacio Vazquez with his coach, Marcelo Alfonsin, who was hired by the Dominican branch of a Houston team. Photo: Andres D'Elia.

Ignacio Vazquez with his coach, Marcelo Alfonsin, who was hired by the Dominican branch of a Houston team. Photo: Andres D’Elia.

In January 2020, Ignacio arrived in the United States for the first time. He spent a month in Seattle accompanied by his mother and visited a training center for “pitchers”, his position on the field, as part of a “Player Development Program”. It was an investment: based on an analysis carried out on the basis of biomechanical devices, they gave him a personalized gym routine to strengthen his weak points. He returned to the country but the quarantine prevented him from continuing to train in Vélez. He was at the highest level of his career but locked up.

In that confinement he investigated how he could make his own cement weights and put them together. He did the same with the pitcher’s mound, that little structure from which balls are thrown at full speed: he built one with pallets. In the courtyard of his house in Versailles, ten blocks from Vélez, he trained as best he could. But without stopping. At the end of the year, with high school finished, he made the decision and decided to look for a university in the United States. Although he had a new problem: he did not have the two thousand dollars charged by the agencies that are responsible for liaising with those institutions. Also, in case they found a place for him, his budget to pay for training and studying was very low. The other Argentines who had reached university leagues did so through agencies.

Again he appealed to ingenuity: he recorded himself in training, edited the videos, wrote a kind of cover letter telling his dream and his story, he looked for names of pitching coaches from universities, their profiles on social networks and wrote to them. By that means or by email. Many did not respond to him, some told him that due to the pandemic they did not accept Argentine students, others said yes but asked for a budget that did not close.

However, during that search, an interested party appeared who contacted him on his own account and on the recommendation of the Seattle Training Center where he had been in 2020.

“What they told me was that they were interested in my profile. But beyond the technique, they noticed my desire, because they were aware of my initiative and my willpower, without agencies,” he confides, a few meters from the space of the activity in Vélez, just below the Perito Moreno highway. “They wanted someone with the desire to earn a living, to give everything for one goal and with the Argentine sports culture, that we put everything into what we do.” Later, he had more offers from other universities. And he stayed with the Missouri Valley College proposal.

The trip north is August 18. “I made my way with what I had. I mentalized myself: I would get up, have breakfast and start sending emails. I would go to bed hoping to get up and find answers.” His routine in the USA will be the gym first thing in the day, hours of study and in the afternoon, training. He says that he will be counting the step by step in @ nachovazquez5, his instagram account. Then he will work to avoid generating expenses for his parents, and pay for meals and accommodation. “It is that their support took me to the place where I am, they always accompanied me in my decisions,” he is grateful.

Ignacio Vazquez, eager to start living his new life in the United States. Photo: Andres D'Elia.

Ignacio Vazquez, eager to start living his new life in the United States. Photo: Andres D’Elia.

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