It all starts with a bamboo stick, a tattered ball, a makeshift field -- and a dream. Amid the squalor and destitution of the Dominican Republic's poorest barrios, young men toil away their adolescence for the chance to become bona fide major league stars -- and, with that, the chance to make something of themselves and their families. Baseball on this island is not always a game of fun. It's often a game of survival.
This is baseball Latin-style, and with it comes a fire, an intensity, an inner desire to play the best ball possible and leave behind the poverty of the island. It was this fire that drove Dominican-born Sammy Sosa during his 1998 MVP season, when he, along with slugger Mark McGwire, rattled the ghosts of Babe Ruth and Roger Maris. It was that same fire that drove Juan Gonzalez toward his second MVP trophy, marking the first season in history that baseball's top honors were swept by Latin players.
In Away Games, award-winning journalists Marcos Bretón and José Luis Villegas examine the story of Latin baseball as seen through the eyes of Miguel Tejada, a young Dominican shortstop and one of many promising Latin prospects in the Oakland A's organization. By telling Tejada's story, Bretón and Villegas also tell the story of every Latin ballplayer who has come before him: Roberto Clemente, Minnie Minoso, Chico Carrasquel, Zoilo Versalles, Felipe Alou, and countless others.
Just as African-American players electrified baseball in the 1950s, Latin ballplayers are transforming America's pastime today. Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez and his brother Ramon, Raul Mondesi, Manny Ramirez, and Vladimir Guerrero -- they are baseball's future, and they come from places most Americans have never even heard of and from lives most Americans could never even imagine. The story of Latin baseball is an incredible tale -- baseball's last, great untold story.
Since the turn of the century, long-forgotten men who reached the major leagues before Jackie Robinson was credited with breaking baseball's color barrier have paved the way for the Latin stars we see today. And that legacy grows stronger each day, with young men like Tejada competing for a plane ticket off the island. In Away Games, Bretón and Villegas tell the riveting tale of Tejada's journey from the barrios to the starting lineup of the Oakland A's. They give voice to every kid's dream of playing baseball; it's just that for some kids that dream is more a necessity than for others. Told with unparalleled reporting and a sharp, critical eye, Away Games is not just the rags-to-riches story of Miguel Tejada's triumph, it's the story of Latin baseball and the American dream. For some, the American dream lies in glory on the basepaths in major league stadiums. For others, that dream is a harsh reality of New York ghettos and failed potential. Bretón and Villegas tell it all in this fascinating book that encapsulates Latin baseball as it heads into the twenty-first century.