Trade creates unlikely reunion in Cleveland

June 3rd, 2021

It was Jan. 7 and Indians fans were trying to cope with the fact that their beloved Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco were heading to the Mets. But for Indians life skills coordinator Jen Wolf, the move prompted a solo dance party in the middle of her apartment.

“I felt kind of bad because everyone was bummed about losing Lindor and Carrasco,” Wolf said. “And I was, too, don’t get me wrong. But like these are my guys.”

Her guys are Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez, the two shortstops who were part of the return package for Lindor and Carrasco. Wolf has known Rosario since he was 15 or 16 years old and she’s known Giménez since the day he was signed by the Mets. Somehow, Father Time worked his magic and allowed this relationship to come full circle.

Prior to joining the Indians in 2019, Wolf had been the coordinator of Minor League and international operations for the Mets, helping with contracts, transactions, expenses and anything else you could think of. With this role came a lot of direct work with international players, and a relationship with Rosario and Giménez was born.

Making the transition from high school or college to professional baseball isn’t easy for anyone, especially those who are coming from another country and don’t speak English. That’s where people like Wolf step in. Wolf’s role is to help these players who are having to learn important life skills for the first time (and most of the time, at a younger age than most).

“A lot of what I do gets covered at other clubs,” Wolf said, “but we just try to do it a little bit better and incorporate some learning into it, as well. It's great to have a bank account but you got to make sure that they're being smart with it. A lot of these things don't seem directly related to baseball, but how many times have you had something else going on in your personal life and it's affected you at work or at school or something? Same thing with these guys. They’re human.”

But what’s it like for international players to go through this same process with no background or experience of what it’s like to live in the United States? Luckily for Wolf, she’s able to resonate with these players, having the ability to speak Spanish after minoring in it in college and multiple extended trips abroad, including a 13-month stay in the Dominican Republic.

“I definitely had some culture shock at first and I always tell the guys that,” Wolf said. “I say, ‘Look, I was college educated. I had taken Spanish my whole life and still experienced culture shock in the US.’ And I was an adult. I was 24 or 25. Like these guys are 16, 17, 18, barely speak the language and they’re coming here. No wonder some of them struggle. It’s hard.

“I think that kind of made me sympathetic to what they’re going through.”

And for those who are trying to get signed, it’s more than just fulfilling a dream of becoming a professional baseball player.

“I mean that’s an undeniable truth about the reality of the competition out there for a lot of players down there in Latin America,” Rosario said, through team interpreter Agustin Rivero. “It’s more of a matter of life and that type of thing. They want to provide for their families, so the competition is a little more fierce compared to the players from the United States.”

So Wolf established an early relationship with Rosario and Giménez when they first made the transition to the United States and did her best to help make that move even a little bit easier on two people coming from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, respectively. When Wolf joined the Indians in 2019, she did her best to stay in touch with both of the infielders as often as she could and saw each of them once since her departure. But on Jan. 7, she realized keeping in touch wouldn’t be as difficult. As soon as the news broke that the two were coming to Cleveland, she texted Giménez of picture of him at his signing day that she took.

“Wow, thanks,” he responded. “How time flies.”

Suddenly, it also sunk in for Wolf just how much time has flown by. Over the last decade she’s seen Rosario and Giménez grow as players -- and people -- while adapting to a new home and culture. And when this small world came full circle when they were all reunited in Arizona for Spring Training, she couldn’t help but have a proud mom-like feeling when seeing them.

“Having seen them through their whole development,” Wolf said, “and knowing that hopefully I had a little bit of influence on what it took for them to get them there, yeah, there's definitely a lot of pride in that.”