Rooting for a good cause
On Sept. 2, Geovany Soto chaired the 2nd Annual Rooters Ball at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse in downtown Chicago. Organized by the West Side Rooters Social Club, the event benefitted Chicago Cubs Charities, supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Major League Baseball Dominican Development Alliance.
Several current Cubs players joined Soto, including Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Carlos Marmol, Jake Fox, Sam Fuld, Randy Wells and John Grabow. Also present was “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, chairman of the West Side Rooters Social Club.
We talked to several players, in Spanish, about their charitable support:
VL: Why are you participating in the Rooters Ball?
Geovany Soto: Well, growing up in Puerto Rico, I was lucky that I had everything I needed and I was healthy all my life. But I saw the needs around me, and I thought that, if I ever had the chance, I would love to help kids. And in this case, kids with diabetes need a lot of help. Also, when I was playing in the minors, I had a coach [Alan Dunn] whose son was diagnosed with diabetes. I had a really good relationship with him and his son, and that painful moment for them affected me because they were important to me.
Alfonso Soriano: Geovany invited me. I am here supporting him in this worthy cause. Tonight we are participating for the Chicago Cubs.
Jake Fox: No. 1, I have great respect for Geovany Soto, and when he invited me to participate, I did it gladly. This is a noble cause, and when a player of his caliber asks you to help, you do it because that’s what friends are for. Another reason is that my wife has diabetes. She is a Type 1 diabetic, and every time I can help JDRF, I am first in line.
VL: We know some of the proceeds from this event will go to the Dominican Republic through the MLB Dominican Development Alliance. What does it feel like to know that you are helping the Dominican community?
Soto: The Dominican Republic is the sister island of Puerto Rico–they are next to each other–and every time I can help them, I do it, giving these kids something extra now that I can help.
Soriano: I am from the Dominican Republic, and when I was young, there were no organizations helping us on the island. I did not get help from anybody, and when I signed a contract [with the Hiroshima Carp] really young, 17 years old, and left for Japan, I felt I was not prepared to go there. If the major leagues can help these kids prepare better, it will be really good for them to have more knowledge.
Carlos Marmol: Yes, I feel honored that Geovany invited me. I would help not only the Dominican communities but any other country. Thanks to God that I see lots of people helping us. I hope this continues.
Ramirez: Not only that, even if the money was not going to the Dominican Republic, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is also really important. Many kids suffer from diabetes and I am here to support them too, it’s not important if the money goes to Santo Domingo or not.
VL: As a baseball star, do you feel the responsibility to help and inspire Dominican kids?
Soriano: If all these kids who like baseball in the Dominican or the world see me as an inspiration to better themselves and succeed, it’s something really big to me. We are all responsible and try to help because fans know us and respect our opinions.
Marmol: Yes, I do. As long as God gives me the opportunity to help others, I will do it gladly as thanks for everything that was given to me. I hope that the players after me will be willing to do the same.
VL: Jake, you are returning to play in the Dominican this winter. What have you learned from your experience there?
Fox: I will play for Licey in Santo Domingo, and I am grateful for all the help the team gave me to play there. I have a lot of respect for Dominican players. It’s difficult to play baseball in another country because it’s difficult to learn the culture, the way of life and get used to the food. I have new respect for the players that come here….I studied Spanish for two years. Also, I learned Spanish from the Latin players in the minors. My favorite players are the Latin players because they have a lot a heart for the game and they are always happy people.
VL: What is your favorite food, and where did you learn to speak Spanish?
Fox: I like tostones (fried plantains) a lot! It’s my favorite food. I learned Spanish in college. I studied Spanish for two years. Also, I learned Spanish from the Latino players in the minors. My favorite players are the Latino players, because they have a lot a heart for the game and they are happy people, always.
–Joaquin Castillo (Photo courtesy Harry Caray’s)