A cultural connection with Anthony Rendon

Sergio Romo has always been my favorite baseball player for a number of reasons. One, he used to play on my favorite baseball team, the San Francisco Giants. Two, he’s Mexican-American, as am I.

Watching Romo play always instilled in me a sense of pride for being Mexican while I also embraced my American upbringing. He showed a lot of passion for being “Born in the States with Mexican parts,” as he once told me. He had a great sense of pride for playing for Team Mexico during the World Baseball Classic. Moreover, his social posts on Twitter and Instagram were “So Mexican.”

While I still admire Sergio and follow his career closely with the Tampa Bay Rays, there is now another Mexican-American ballplayer I admire and can relate to both culturally and personally — Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals.

At a recent trip to Nationals Park in Washington D.C., I sat down and interviewed Rendon for the first time. I went into the interview prepared to talk to him only about why he went to college and if he had any plans on going back to obtain his degree at Rice University. What I thought would be a quick two-minute interview turned into a conversation that felt like two “compas” (friends as we call each other in the Mexican culture). We discussed our time in college, our families, being Mexican-American and our hopes and dreams for the future.

I first asked him why he decided to go to college.

“I have great parents,” he said. “They instilled the education process in my brother and I growing up. We had to get our school work done before we were able to go outside, just like any other family. And they were really strict about it.”

My parents were the exact same way. I couldn’t go outside or do anything during the weekends until my homework was completed.

After this first question, I felt like I wanted to change the course and ask him about his family and growing up in Texas, where my family also has roots. My grandparents were married and my mom, aunts and uncles were all born in the small south Texas town of Weslaco. I wanted to know how the Mexican culture was instilled in him. His answer was very similar to my experience growing up.

“The Mexican culture was definitely instilled in us, especially when my grandparents were alive,” he said. “The Mexican culture is family oriented, and if you think of a Mexican family you just think of a lot of people. We would always have Christmas and get-togethers, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, at my grandparents’ house. And all my aunts and uncles and cousins would be there. We were packed in this small two-bedroom house. There’s nothing better than family.”

That answer brought back memories I had while growing up with my family. Holidays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, we always found an excuse to get together. Everyone would come to my grandparents’ house. We would pack the house with love and food.

I then asked him about his favorite type of music. I was surprised by his answer — Christian hip-hop. With all the music in the world, this is what Rendon was listening to. When I asked him why this was his favorite type of music, he said, ‘It’s positive and uplifting.”

I also grew up listening to Christian hip-hop. I grew up going to church almost daily with my grandma. Again, his answer brought back a lot of childhood memories.

Considering that Rendon is a role model, I wanted to know what advice he would give to young kids or even a younger Anthony Rendon.

“Stay in school and just continue just have fun,” he said. “I took a lot of things seriously when I was younger, I thought it was the end of the world if something went wrong so I would just tell myself and others to relax a little more and have a little more fun.”

I always tell young kids I mentor the same things. One, stay in school and, two, life is short, don’t take life too seriously. Have fun and enjoy it.

We talked a little while longer about baseball, the All-Star Game and even the World Cup. After the interview was over, he stayed and talked with my crew and me about places to visit in Washington D.C. and how he and his wife are expecting the birth of their daughter any time now.

After the interview, I was inspired by Rendon. Inspired because we as Mexican-Americans have another positive role model to look up to in professional baseball. We need more players and role models like Rendon.

When I asked him about his plans after baseball, he said he wanted to go back to Rice University and finish his degree. He has one more year of college left. In my opinion, after he graduates, he should  travel around the world and be a motivational speaker. He has a great story and is very inspiring. My hope is that more people will be inspired by him and his journey.

Featured Image: Patrick Smith / Getty Images Sport