Mario first arrived in the United States from Cuba at age 8. He didn’t speak a word of English. But between ESOL classes and watching cartoons, he was speaking like a native in just a few months. That kind of dedication has stuck with him ever since.
Mario learned pretty early on that his talent for pitching a baseball could take him places as an American. He wasn’t sure he could afford college, but he realized that if he did well enough in school and baseball, he could get a scholarship. In fact, playing college ball has helped him see the US, something he didn’t have the luxury of doing as a kid. He likes to FaceTime his travels so his family can share the experience with him.
But there’s something else—something bigger—baseball has done for him. It has given him a platform, a voice. When young kids from challenged backgrounds look at him as a hero and ask for his autograph, he doesn’t let the moment pass. He tells them: “Respect your teachers and other students. Do well in school. Then you can earn a scholarship and go to college like me.”
Finding his voice has changed Mario’s life. He became a leader among student athletes. He visits local schools and mentors children on the importance of a college education. And he uses his platform as an athlete to spark change in others’ lives.
Eventually, Mario hopes to parlay his pitching gift into either a professional sports career or work as an athletic director. Either way, he wants to continue using sports as his platform to show other athletes that there are many opportunities to pursue outside of the game, beginning with using your voice.