Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Long Road from Cuba Leads to Diaz's First All-Star Selection

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Long Road from Cuba Leads to Diaz's First All-Star Selection

Article excerpt

The excitement and pride boiled quickly inside him, pushing Aledmys Diaz near tears Thursday morning. Nonetheless, he stoically disguised his emotions after manager Mike Matheny told him he had earned a spot on the National League All-Star team.

The Cardinals' rookie shortstop received the news with such calm, Matheny wondered if he had already been told he would replace injured teammate Matt Carpenter at next week's Midsummer Classic in San Diego.

"He was the least emotional I think I've ever seen any guy," Matheny said. "He held it together really well in front of me. It was almost like, 'Did you already know this?'

"He said no. I think he had been dreaming about this being a reality. He hasn't had his head in the sand. He realizes where he is and what he's been doing. Then with Carp going down we needed a representative."

Don't let Diaz's stoic reaction fool you. In those few minutes inside the manager's office, he let his mind wander from Villa Clara, Cuba, to the Netherlands; Mexico; Jupiter, Fla.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; St. Louis and several stops along his circuitous journey to become an All-Star.

If you've ever felt alone in a foreign place, let Diaz's All- Star berth serve as a beacon of hope. If you wonder if you'll ever return home, feel free to garner strength from the shortstop's journey.

If you fail to understand how much Latin American players sacrifice to reach the majors, especially the Cubans, learn about Diaz.

Unlike the stars from the Dominican Republic, Mexico or Venezuela not to mention the Puerto Ricans with U.S. citizenship Cuban ballplayers chase their Major League dreams knowing they may never see some loved ones again.

Diaz, who will turn 26 on Aug. 1, began his trek to the majors by defecting in the Netherlands on a trip with the Cuban national team in 2012. He eventually established residency in Mexico, where he vaguely remembers watching baseball's Midsummer Classic for the first time in 2013.

He signed with the Cardinals on March 9, 2014. He drew inspiration later that summer as he watched Yankees great Derek Jeter play in his final All-Star Game. Four years after defecting and three years after watching his first All-Star Game, Diaz has earned his spot among the game's greats.

After getting the news from Matheny at 10:30 a.m., Diaz rushed to call his pregnant wife Ayara and his parents Rigoberto and Kenia back in West Palm Beach. Then, he called his paternal grandfather Rigoberto and his uncles Nelson, William and Jorge Diaz in his hometown of Villa Clara.

"My grandfather was very, very happy," he said. "He told me he sensed that I would be part of the All-Star team."

Diaz will be joined by his wife and parents in San Diego for the All-Star festivities next week. He has secured visas for his grandfather to visit him in the U. …

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