As a rowdy child growing up in the 1980s, my blue-collar father, a Pittsburgh native, made certain to raise me into becoming a die-hard Pirates fan.
For many baseball parents, sports and family played a huge part in every father’s livelihood. He made sure to pass down his extraordinary passion to his middle son. I will never forget wearing my first Pirates’ jersey. Today, family, baseball, music and that familiar black-gold jersey are a part of my DNA.
My dad’s heroes
Even though I never had the opportunity to see those ballplayers from his generation, I would get so excited to hear his stories about Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Dick Groat, Manny Sanguillen, Willie Stargell, Al Oliver and of course Mr. “No-No” himself, Dock Ellis.
And I can tell you this: Dad can tell some really good baseball stories!
Let’s fast forward 25-plus years, I’m still a Buccos fan and get excited talking and reliving any and every great baseball moment.
It was in 2015, my livelihood was engulfed in the music-entertainment industry. I was an audio engineer and graduated top of my class from the Institute of Audio Research (I.A.R.) in New York City. I became a performing/ recording artist and accomplished numerous things that many people said I couldn’t achieve. I’m extremely proud of myself.
I decided to get back into baseball – 150 percent full-blown. Certainly it was going to be my childhood team or nothing at all. Although my all-time favorite player is Clemente, I wanted to emulate ‘The Great One’ and follow in his footsteps the best I could.
My baseball family
I’ve traveled to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, London, and countless states trying to promote love, happiness and of course the great sport of baseball. In my travels and especially in the world of social media I came across a great soul and person, Danny Torres, 53, who is a high school teacher in New York City and a freelance sports writer for close to 18 years. We communicated via Twitter and finally met earlier this year in Delaware. He has provided guidance and helpful tips on how to navigate the world of Major League Baseball.
A pirate’s fan dream
One of the many people Danny introduced me to is a familiar face at PNC Park. He was born in Panama and was one of the greatest catchers of his generation. The one and only 1971 World Series champion and All-Star catcher Manuel Sanguillen. He was my dad’s favorite player and once «Sangy» met me and understood my mission in baseball, he started to call me in Spanish his sobrino – translation: nephew.
From the moment I walked over to «Manny’s BBQ Pit» inside PNC Park in Pittsburgh, I must say his pulled pork sandwich is one of the best foods in MLB ballparks. In our first meeting, I was greeted with the legendary «Sangy Smile,” and his laughter and warm embrace is something I will never forget.
After I introduced myself, we talked and got to know each other. After a while «Mr. Manny» (I’ve affectionately given him this new nickname), we began to laugh and joke about different scenarios and situations throughout the 70s. Whether it was politics, baseball, or regular everyday life, I was excited to hear his stories and appreciated every moment he decided to share with me.
Sangy, the man, the legend
The only somber part about our conversations was anything he shared about Clemente. All these years since his passing, I still see the sadness and hurt in his eyes. My father would always relive Sangy’s playing days about «throwing out St. Louis Cardinals all-time great Lou Brock from his knees as he was smiling and laughing.» Sanguillen still enjoys the game we all love.
Those stories my father told me about you «Mr. Manny» were absolutely “gold” and most importantly, the truth. I am definitely a person who observes and pays attention to detail.
What really impressed me about “Mr. Manny” is that he remembers everyone’s name, where they met, the conversation, what they both were wearing and most importantly what joke was told. To me «Mr. Manny» isn’t just the three-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion, an unbelievable great bad ball hitter who revolutionized the catcher position with his style of play but who was also a part of history on September 1, 1971 when the Pirates fielded an all-black team for the first time in Major League Baseball history.
Now…he’s simply mi tio – my uncle – and I treasure this relationship forever. It’s amazing to think on how my beloved father spoke often about his favorite Pirates’ catcher who is now a part of our family.
Is my father proud of me? Ask him one day. But the next time you’re at the beautiful PNC Park in Downtown Pittsburgh, make sure you visit «Mr. Manny» and remember these three important things: stories, smile and most importantly the love.
We love you tio!!!
By Matt Brock @BrockIsBaseball
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