By César Augusto Márquez
On the mound, Venezuelan righthander Carlos Carrasco has focused on trying to help the Cleveland Indians claim the World Series title that has eluded the franchise for decades.
Outside the white lines, the veteran righthander has devoted his life to giving back in a way that would have made the Great One Roberto Clemente proud.
Carrasco, who will take the Minute Maid Park mound Saturday afternoon in Game 2 of the Division Series against the Astros, knows quite a bit about need.
He was born in a humble home in Barquisimeto, which is in the northwest part of Venezuela.
His parents Luis and Maria taught him values that he considers the main teachings he hopes to share with his own children. Those teachings and the support of his wife Karelis were two of the main reasons he created a foundation dedicated to helping children in Venezuela and also youth in Cleveland, his second home.
“In the beginning, the idea to create a foundation came from my wife Karelis,” he said. “She talked about it with me. Without hesitation I said yes. We started working with early childhood education in the United States since it is very important that Latino children can complete their education.”
Carrasco, 31, showed this season that his previous campaign was no fluke. He won 17 games with a 3.32 ERA and a career-high 231 strikeouts with only 43 walks in 192 innings.
Carrasco, who threw 5 ⅔ scoreless innings against the Yankees in the 2017 Division Series, will make his second postseason appearance in Game 2 of the best-of-five Division Series against the Astros on Saturday afternoon.
The Indians hope he can help them even the series before returning home for Game 3 on Monday.
Off the field, Carrasco already is among the best in baseball. He is the Indians’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for the third consecutive season.
The nomination pleases Carrasco, who is a faithful follower of the example of humanitarianism and philanthropy set by Clemente.
Answering the Call
Much like Clemente, Carrasco is focused on helping people in need where he makes his living and in his homeland.
Venezuela is one of the countries with the severest economic and social problems in the Western hemisphere. The country’s projected inflation is 1,000,000 percent by end of this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. The poverty rate index at the beginning of this year was 87 percent, according to studies carried out by leading universities in Venezuela.
Awareness of these conditions is precisely what Carrasco took into consideration in starting his foundation to help those in his native Venezuela.
“Since we were doing well with the foundation, we felt it necessary to dig a little deeper and cover education issues in Venezuela,” he said. “At this time we also contribute in other areas like health and nutrition.
“My goal is to help, not to forget where I come from and stay humble. The Foundation has allowed me to help others and it has become a team effort where family and friends have become very involved.”
Carrasco is honored that the Indians organization has once again nominated him for the Clemente Award. This is particularly special considering what the Puerto Rican legend means to him.
“I believe this is what it is all about, doing things from the heart to help other people without expecting anything in return,” he said. “That is what [Clemente] did during his life. I will always consider it an honor to be nominated for this award, which is named after someone who did so much for so many people.”
Values of Home
The opening portal for the Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco Children Foundation website includes a quote from Carrasco. The quote captures one of the key values that inspired him to create the foundation.
“As a child, the importance of education was a priority instilled in me by my parents. I want to encourage others to make it a priority for their children and their communities.”
The humble beginnings and the strong values instilled in him were evident to those who saw the young Venezuelan as he began his baseball journey.
José Luis Montero, Carrasco’s first coach, noticed the altruistic traits when he first started coaching the righthander when he was 14.
“He came from a very humble home, dealing with serious economic needs, but with an education from home that shaped his personality,” Montero told La Vida Baseball.
That personality is what gives Carrasco the character to face the challenge of being a key part of Cleveland’s starting staff. It is what gives Indians manager Terry Francona confidence in handing him the ball in Game 2 of their series versus the Astros.
Carrasco has come a long way from humble beginnings in Venezuela and now strives just like the Great One did in Pittsburgh to have an impact on and off the baseball field.
Featured Image: Lindsey Wasson / Getty Images Sport