On Your Marc 7/10: Border lines

W hile families have been torn apart at the U.S./Mexican border and protests of outrage are surfacing there and across the country—intensified by a travel ban from countries that include Venezuela—Hispanics from those countries who play or coach the Dayton Dragons do so seemingly without impediment. There are three players on the Dragons from Mexico […]

Travel ban doesn’t impact Dragons teammates

By Marc Katz

While families have been torn apart at the U.S./Mexican border and protests of outrage are surfacing there and across the country—intensified by a travel ban from countries that include Venezuela—Hispanics from those countries who play or coach the Dayton Dragons do so seemingly without impediment.

There are three players on the Dragons from Mexico and manager Luis Bolivar is from Venezuela.

None are directly impacted by what’s going on, but obviously have taken an interest in the news.

Adrian Rodriguez, a starting pitcher, joined the team from extended spring training at the end of April.

Infielder Alejo Lopez and relief pitcher Miguel Aguilar both joined the team from extended spring training in mid-June.

All three are from Mexico, Rodriguez from Tlaquepaque, Jalisco; Lopez from Mexico City and Aguilar from Acaponeta, Nayarit.

Bolivar, who has not been back to Venezuela in five years, has parents and siblings there.

While the players and manager have expressed concern for citizens of their countries, the situations really don’t pertain to them and have yet to affect them.

According to Mark Heil, who works for the Reds obtaining visas for all the organization’s foreign players—there are about 150—the process is not difficult nor easy.

“It’s comprehensive,” Heil said. “This is my second year doing this and we haven’t had any problems. Typically, players like to have their families come with them, like a wife or child. There could be a problem with other family members, such as a brother or cousin.”

The length of a visa can vary, and Heil says he does not have to apply every year for every player. Most return home when the season is finished and are allowed to return on the same visa the next spring.

“Guys from Cuba (Dragons infielder Jose Garcia) are a little different,” Heil said, “but we haven’t had a problem.”

None of the players has to walk to the border and beg a patrol officer to let them in.

“It hasn’t affected anybody in my family, but I feel for the people struggling, because I’m a Mexican, just like them,” Rodriguez said with Lopez translating. “I’m aware of the situation. I pay attention. We’re all humans. It’s something that makes America, America. This country without Latins is not the same.”

Lopez, 22, first left Mexico when he was 15 to position himself for the free agent draft rather than signing with the highest bidder, as most South Americans are expected to do.

He first played in Canada before moving to the Phoenix area. His English is good, so he understood everything Donald Trump said about Mexicans being “rapists and drug dealers.”

“He (Trump) has a big mouth,” Lopez said. “He expresses his feelings the wrong way. Maybe he doesn’t have those intentions.”

Lopez grew up in Mexico City. His family had the wherewithal to send him to an environment where he could grow his baseball skills.

“I stayed with a host family in Canada and rented an apartment in Phoenix,” Lopez said. “I don’t regret any part of it. I grew up with a different perspective. I guess you could say my parents were pretty well off economically. They own a marketing business.”

He says what he does and what Mexicans and others from South America at the U.S. border do is different.

“The people trying to get in now are taking jobs anyone can do,” Lopez said. “When it’s about going to school, or being an exchange student or baseball, when you come in legally, he (Trump) doesn’t have an issue with that.

“He said the only issue he had were people here illegally. I understand. I get it. Just the way he puts things, it’s not the right thing to say. People think the jobs are being taken away from them. Trump and his ideas haven’t affected me in any way.”

Bolivar talks to his parents on the phone, but they have not scheduled any flights to Dayton, where their son became a naturalized citizen last year.

Most of the countries that are banned from flying citizens to the U.S. are Muslim-based. Venezuela is not.

“This is not about Muslims,” Bolivar said. “It’s about government.

“They have gangs there that say they are trying to protect the community. It is dangerous, but you learn how to take care of yourself. I don’t know what’s going to happen. The economy is not good. It’s overwhelming at times to think about it. “There’s only so much I can do to help.”

He has an older sister who left the country and two brothers, one of whom has left.

His dad is a retired teacher.

“They (his parents) live a normal life,” Bolivar said. “But there’s always a risk something will happen.”

None of the Dragons have been affected, yet. Let’s hope it stays that way, and the citizens left behind are helped to more stable situations.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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