Like any Cuban-born player, Guillermo Heredia said the decision to defect from the island in 2015 was a difficult one. Heredia said he left Cuba not knowing if he’d ever see his family and he feared never reaching his destination.
But the decision to defect Cuba was an opportunity for Heredia to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing in the Major Leagues, which is something his father, Guillermo Heredia Sr., never got an opportunity to do.
“The relationship I have with my dad is really special,” Heredia said. “He’s my guide and he’s the person that has followed me throughout my professional career. He’s been my trainer in the Cuban league and even now he still watches my videos and tries to fix some of the things that I might be doing.”
Heredia Sr. played professional baseball for 11 seasons in the Cuban Series Nacional, but like many Cuban-born players, the lane to play in the Major Leagues wasn’t there because of the issues that surrounded the island. Even though Heredia Sr. didn’t get a chance to play in the United States, he knew his son had the ability to play in the Majors.
“He always dreamed that I would be a good baseball player,” Heredia said, in Spanish. “He always had the desire for me to go far in life and for me to represent my country.
Heredia remembers the day when he was 16 years old and his father told him that he will one day play center field for the Cuban national team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Heredia said he didn’t believe it at first, but with the help of his father’s training over the years, the Rays outfielder was on the Cuban national team for the 2013 Classic, just like his father had predicted.
“It’s not something that I kept saying ‘I have to do it, I have to do it,’” Heredia said. “But thanks to God and everyone else, I got the opportunity to join that team and he was one of the first to congratulate me after they announced the decision in Cuba.”
As Heredia is getting ready for his third consecutive Father’s Day on a Major League roster, he still remembers the emotions of telling his father that he was being signed to a one-year deal by the Seattle Mariners, just a month after leaving the island.
“There were a lot of tears. A lot of happiness,” Heredia recalled. “He was really proud of me because even though I was far from home, I was able to accomplish my goals and the obstacles that we’re faced with in life. He was just really happy.”
During Father’s Day games, for the fourth consecutive year, players wore specially designed New Era caps to raise awareness and funds for the fight against prostate cancer. Players also had the option to wear Stance multi-pattern blue-dyed socks. MLB will again donate 100 percent of its royalties from the sales of specialty caps and apparel emblazoned with the symbolic blue ribbon -- a minimum $300,000 collective donation -- to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer.
This effort also includes the annual Prostate Cancer Foundation “Home Run Challenge,” which has given fans the chance to make a one-time monetary donation or pledge for every home run hit by their favorite MLB Clubs during the time period of Saturday, June 1 through Father’s Day, Sunday, June 16, all the while tracking where their team stacks up in a “Team vs. Team” competition. Every dollar donated through the Home Run Challenge goes to PCF to fund critical research to defeat prostate cancer. As of June 13, more than $1.26 million has been pledged via the Home Run Challenge in 2019. Since its inception, the Home Run Challenge has raised more than $51 million for PCF, the world’s leading philanthropic organization funding and accelerating prostate cancer research.
Founded in 1993, Prostate Cancer Foundation has funded nearly $800 million of cutting-edge research by 2,200 scientists at 220 leading cancer centers in 22 countries around the world. Because of PCF’s commitment to ending death and suffering from prostate cancer, the death rate is down more than 52 percent and 1.5 million men are alive today as a result. PCF research now impacts 67 forms of human cancer by focusing on immunotherapy, the microbiome, and food as medicine. Learn more at pcf.org.
Rays reliever Jose Alvarado, who has been away from the team since June 2 as he attended to a family issue in his home country of Venezuela, has returned to the United States and will report to the team’s Spring Training facility in Port Charlotte, Fla., in order to get into a throwing progression before rejoining the active roster.
Due to being on the Restricted list, Alvarado cannot appear in games with the Stone Crabs, so his work will be limited to bullpen sessions and sim games while in Port Charlotte. The left-hander is 0-4 with a 3.09 ERA, but is one of the most important pieces in the Rays bullpen.
“It’s encouraging," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. "Now we have to do our due diligence and get him built back up. He missed quite a bit of time, so we’ll get him there. I talked to him yesterday and saw him yesterday and he seems to be in a good spot. Watched him play catch and he threw the ball fine. Now it’s the whole bullpen, live batting practice or game, whatever it is. We’ll start that process going forward.”