A local… Sports note

compiled from an interview by Martha Vergara

Soccer or football is a passion in Latin American countries as it is in many other continents. For Oscar Vergara, the coach of Bishop Ludden College since 1976, a Catholic-private college in Syracuse soccer is his life. His coaching career is 42 years old. Most of these have been at Bishop Ludden but before that he was a coach at several schools since he began as an assistant at Corcoran High School. From a young age, Oscar spent all his free time playing with his friends in the paddocks or improvised courts of his native neighborhood, La Estación Villa in Medellín, Colombia.

Reminiscing with Oscar about his life as an immigrant in Syracuse where he has resided since 1971, he answered several questions:

How was your experience of emigrating to the United States?

I believe that for me the change of culture, language, and customs was very difficult. I was young and I came to a school where everything was different and there was not even a soccer team. I was eager for summer to come so I could find a team in the city where I could do with the ball what I could not do in any other way. The language limitation and the experience of being in a new world after having recently lost my mother in a traffic accident where a drunk driver killed her and left my brother badly injured were a difficult burden to bear. I saw soccer as my salvation.

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Remembering Jose Fernandez

The baseball world woke up absolutely stunned on September 25, 2016 and it will forever go down as one of the saddest days in baseball history. One of the games most beloved stars, Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins, passed away early Sunday morning in a boating accident. Fernandez, 24, and two other men were found dead after their boat was discovered by Coast Guard personnel out on patrol upside down on the north end of a rocky jetty in the Miami Harbor, at roughly 3:15 a.m.

The Marlins released this statement after the tragic loss of their ace, “The Miami Marlins organization is devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernandez. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time.” 

Commissioner Rob Manfred would release his statement on the tragedy shortly after. “All of baseball is shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernandez. He was one of our game’s great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life.”

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The Three Caballeros

The Three Caballeros is how a sector of the press and the fandom have dubbed the attacking trident made up by Argentinean Leo Messi, Brazilian Neymar and Uruguayan Luis Suarez, key players for the Catalan Futbol Club Barcelona, one of the world’s top soccer teams. The Three Caballeros first appeared in a competitive soccer game in October 2014, and readily emerged as a well-oiled goal-scoring machine: 122 in the 2014-15 season; 131 in the 2015-16 season. In each case, they broke the record for most goals attained by an offensive trio in the Spanish soccer statistical tables. The latter season included historical blowouts such as 4-0 against Real Madrid, 6-0 against Sporting de Gijon, 7-0 against Valencia and 8-0 against Deportivo La Coruña.

But before the Argentinean-Brazilian-Uruguayan The Three Caballeros, there was The Three Caballeros Version 1.0: American Donald Duck; Brazilian Jose Carioca, a parrot, and; Mexican Panchito Pistoles, a cock, all of whom star in the animated Walt Disney movie of the same name, whose main theme is Donald opening three  birthday presents from his friends: a film projector, a book and a piñata.

Besides the original trio of caballeros, three other characters in the picture are the Brazilian Aracuan, a tropical bird known as the speckled chachalaca; and the Argentineans Pablo, a penguin, and Burrito, a donkey.

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Binghamton Mets’ Rosario shining his way to Citi Field

Binghamton Mets shortstop, Amed Rosario will soon be a household name for all Mets fans. Rosario tops the charts in the organization, as he is the top ranked prospect in their farm system.

The incredibly talented shortstop was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Santo Domingo will always be his home; it’s a place where he can really reflect on his childhood and reconnect with family and loved ones.

“Life was always normal, at least it felt that way. I was focused on school and baseball. Besides family, nothing else mattered. I would practice all morning and in the evenings I’d be focused on studying. I graduated from school at 16 and after that, baseball became my sole focus. I wanted to be the best player and teammate I could be. Manny Ramirez was my favorite player. I tried everything to play like he did, he played with such finesse.” Rosario shared with me as he recounted his childhood.

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Latin Wings Soaring in Rochester

Major League Baseball has taken huge strides into making America’s pastime a global pastime. The international talent is incredible; we have seen the show taken by storm. All clubs are looking to expand their global scouting and there are a few teams who have already figured it out. Though the Minnesota Twins haven’t been a major threat to a World Series title since the early 1990s, they’ve managed to stay relevant. Relevant clearly wasn’t enough, so the Twins made some adjustments and sought out top ballplayers somewhere other than the off-season free agency and it worked, especially with the Latin-born ball players. Two of their top four prospects within the organization come from a Latin background. Standing at number four is shortstop/second baseman, Jorge Polanco and the most highly regarded prospect for the Twins ranked number one overall is starting pitcher, Jose Berrios. Both have made Rochester home this season, dawning the Rochester Red Wings (Minnesota Twins Triple-A Affiliate) uniforms and both young Red Wings have soared.

After signing Jorge Polanco for $750,000 in 2009 out of the Dominican Republic, the Twins have been extremely optimistic about his potential. He was an international gem with all his tools being above average with the possible exception of power. He hadn’t shown much pop in a sense when you’re talking about home runs, but his gap-to-gap strength left hope that Polanco still has undeveloped power. This season in Rochester, he has given local fans something exciting to watch and has shown promise for die-hard Twins fans relying on the farm system– his 9 home runs are more than any other season (other than 2013 where he belted 10), but just a reminder, we’ve still got plenty of baseball left meaning Polanco will have a shot at setting a career best. His plate discipline has always been very prized along with his stellar glove (only one error in all of 2016).  In the minors, he’s had a career .286 average with 34 HRs and 288 RBIs (from 2010 to 2016). He’s also had his few short stints in the majors, in 42 at-bats he was batting .262 with just one lone home run and eight runs batted in. Polanco has really developed over the years, and he’s not far from his permanent promotion. But with his primary position being second base and Brian Dozier locked in Minnesota, Polanco is focused on establishing himself as a defensive presence at all positions, similar to a Martin Prado.

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Lacrosse came Home

Lacrosse set its sights on Upstate New York four years ago and this September the Indoor Lacrosse world landed in Onondaga Nation, and it was received with open arms. As the 13 participating nations arrived in central New York realized that the facilities that they would be playing in had been built specifically for this tournament, they felt greatly motivated and set forth a sense of passion and commitment that would drive them to their ultimate goal, the gold medal.

Their quest started on Friday September 18th during some games that occurred in the Onondaga Nation Arena (where most of the games took place during the tournament). The opening ceremony took place at the War Memorial Arena and it honored the thirteen participating countries: Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Iroquois Nationals, Israel, Serbia, Turkey and the U.S. During the ceremony, members of all of the tribes that make up the Haudenausanne Nation performed a ritual to bless the field and to protect the participating members of each nation from bodily harm as well as to make sure that the sport is being played for the right reasons; that the game is played to its fullest potential while respecting everyone on the field.

During the opening ceremony there was a light show placed upon the center of the field where the story of the game of Lacrosse was depicted, meanwhile members of the Haudenosaunee Nations (Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations) danced around the projection. Some members danced while others performed a mock battle, in order to represent how the game of Lacrosse was created. According to the Native American tradition, the Creator gave them the game during a moment of tribulation, to avoid the fights and to help them solve conflicts within the tribe. Several local dignitaries were in attendance, as well as former Vice President Al Gore and NFL and Syracuse University legend Jim Brown.

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It’s Up2Us Sports

Letters from a Lesbian/Cartas  de una Lesbiana

It’s Up2Us Sports

Dear World,

Up2Us Sports Sports is a nation-wide program that helps all children including Hispanic youth, LGBT youth, and Hispanic LGBT youth.

The initial idea started about six years ago. Since then, Up2Us Sports has gone from concept to national organization. Paul Caccamo started the organization, with Megan Bartlett right along with him. Megan and Paul had worked together in other organizations helping children. So it came as no surprise that Megan jumped right on board with him to create what is now an incredible program that helps youth across the country. I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Bartlett, and I want to share the experience with you.

In working with Mr. Caccamo prior to Up2Us Sports, Megan Bartlett found that they, like so many other smaller organizations, were very limited in their ability to reach more people. None were getting the attention and publicity that they needed in order to create a bigger impact. So they started a coalition – a way for everyone to work together to better help children.

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