Anyone else catch this article from today's Enquirer? This is one of those feel good stories. I'm really happy for the guy.
Believe and achieve
'Hard work brings success' has been an Abad family motto - and on Opening Day, Andy Jr. became the latest to prove it so
BY KEVIN KELLY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Andy Abad Sr. wishes he had been in his seat at the time.
Is the American Dream coming true available on VHS or DVD?
The father, who at 14 years old boarded a crowded boat and left his parents and three brothers behind in Communist Cuba, hopes so because he missed the live broadcast Monday.
There on the Great American Ball Park scoreboard was Andy Abad Jr., the son of two Cuban immigrants, wearing a Reds uniform on Opening Day and shaking President George W. Bush's right hand.
"For me that is a special moment," Abad Sr. said Tuesday while watching the Reds' workout. "When I came from Cuba (in 1960) I didn't have anything. The only thing I brought was the desire to work hard so I could bring my family back to me.
"He's worked hard, too. He deserved that."
Awarded one of the final spots on Cincinnati's roster, Abad Jr. earned it under difficult circumstances during spring training. A non-roster invitee, especially a 33-year-old with only 18 major-league at-bats, is a long shot to make a big-league club.
The outfielder/first baseman batted .319 with two home runs and nine RBI and did not commit an error while playing in a team-high 28 games this spring for the Reds.
"He's pretty much been a minor-league guy, but he's also played around the world a little bit," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "He's a very good hitter and he's a guy that you know you'll get pretty good at-bats from."
A career .289 hitter over 1,315-minor-league games, Abad Jr. beat out pinch-hitter Jacob Cruz, who had an underwhelming spring. He also benefited when a foot injury that sidelined non-roster outfielder Quinton McCracken.
McCracken and Cruz will begin the season with Triple-A Louisville.
"They called me in the office Saturday and (general manager Wayne) Krivsky said, 'We'll have a contract for you up there because you're heading north,' " Abad Jr. said.
"I called my wife. I called my father. The things they told me gave me goose bumps and brought some tears to my eyes."
Spend a few minutes listening to how Abad Sr. and his childhood sweetheart, Odilia, fashioned a life out of love, faith and perseverance, and it is easy to see why Abad Jr. never abandoned the pursuit of his own dreams.
One came true Monday when almost 13 years after the Red Sox drafted him in the 16th round, and with his father and wife, Glenys, seated in Section 125, he played in an Opening Day game. Pinch-hitting in the ninth inning of a 16-7 loss to the Cubs, Abad Jr. drew a two-out walk.
"To know how hard he's worked and how he did things the right way, meaning he's never taken steroids or any of that stuff, seeing him play (Monday) was probably one of the most satisfying things that I have ever been able to see since I started doing this," said Mike Paolercio, Abad Jr.'s longtime agent.
"If there's a baseball equivalent to a gym rat, that's him."
A relentless work ethic runs in the Abad family, starting with Abad Sr.
"He's been a mentor throughout my whole career just because the things he had to go through in life," Abad Jr. said. "He never quit."
Abad Sr. started working two jobs in South Florida at 15 years old after defecting from Cuba - waxing lanes at a bowling alley for 90 cents an hour and washing dishes at a hotel. He's now a self-employed electrician. Odilia Abad became a teacher.
"The Cubans that came over didn't want to tell their family back home they were washing dishes," Abad Sr. said. "I was not ashamed to work."
His brothers defected from Cuba in 1966, followed by his parents in 1972. He and Odilia had two children and the family settled in Jupiter, Fla.
Odilia Abad, who escaped from Cuba on the same boat as Abad Sr., died suddenly from a brain aneurysm on Sept. 23, 1998.
Today would have been her 60th birthday.
"That's a special day for me," Abad Sr. said. "That's one of the reasons why I'm here (in Cincinnati). I like to be with him on that day because he still misses his mother a lot.
"I wish I could go to more games, but I feel bad because she's not with me."
The Abad family was, and always will be, close knit.
Mom and dad followed Abad Jr. wherever his sporting and high school band events led. They bought a new Chevrolet Astro van and put more than 150,000 miles on it from their weekend trips.
"When he was in college," Abad Sr. said, "my wife would get off work on Fridays and we would go watch him play in Georgia (for Middle Georgia Junior College)."
The Red Sox drafted Abad Jr. in 1993 and sent him to their Gulf Coast League affiliate. He progressed to Triple-A Pawtucket in 1997 and remained there through the 1999 season.
The next year he signed with the Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League and played overseas for one season before coming home. Abad Jr. made his major-league debut with the Oakland A's as a pinch hitter Sept. 10, 2001, after nine seasons and 883 games in the minors and Japan.
Two seasons later, back with the Red Sox, he played in nine games.
"I remember when I signed with Boston the thing I dreamed about most was getting my first big-league hit in Fenway Park, and that happened in 2003," Abad Jr. said. "After that I wanted to make an Opening Day roster. That was on my list of accomplishments."
Narron was Boston's bench coach when Abad singled off Devil Rays pitcher Victor Zambrano on Sept. 17, 2003 at Fenway Park. He saved the scorecard from the game and presented it to Abad Sr., who has it framed and hanging on a wall in his house.
Abad Jr. spent the past two seasons with the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Nashville and, last year, the Indians' Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. He signed a minor-league contract with the Reds in December, expecting another season in the minors.
Said Abad Jr.: "Sometimes on a seven- or eight-hour bus ride, you get to thinking ... 'Am I ever going to get a chance to start off with a (major-league) team?'
But, as his father said, integrity and hard work are the secrets to success in life. And he sees those values in his son.
"He works hard and is a good boy," Abad Sr. said. "I tell him all the time that if you work hard you will see the fruits. Just like if you were growing a tree."