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Mets Players at World Baseball Classic Reconnect With Roots

Mets Players at World Baseball Classic Reconnect With Roots

Posted by PanamericanWorld on March 14, 2017

 When Mets pitcher Seth Lugo speaks, the Louisiana in him becomes apparent. There is a Southern accent and no hint that he has Puerto Rican roots. He does not speak Spanish, and he had never been to the island until last month, when he met his relatives there for the first time. He jokes with his family that he is “quarter-Rican.”

But because his paternal grandfather was born on the island, Lugo, 27, was on the mound for Puerto Rico’s team in its opening game of the World Baseball Classic on Friday at Estadio de Béisbol Charros de Jalisco. He held a powerful Venezuelan lineup to five and a third scoreless innings in an 11-0 victory, which ended early because of the tournament’s mercy rule.

“I was the first of our generation — my sister and five cousins that are also quarter-Rican — to actually go to Puerto Rico,” Lugo said recently, with a smile. “So I tell them, ‘I’m more Puerto Rican than y’all.’”

Playing in the W.B.C. has given Lugo an opportunity not only to make his family proud but also to learn more about his heritage. He is one of seven Mets playing in the W.B.C. pool in Guadalajara for the first round of the tournament: three for Puerto Rico, two for Italy and two for Mexico.

Members of the group say they have enjoyed immersion in their families’ cultures.

“I never really got the big culture of Puerto Rico until I met my family back in February,” Lugo said. Playing for the team has made him feel even closer to the island. “These last few days,” he said of his W.B.C. teammates, “they’re making me part of the family.”

On Sunday afternoon, five of the Mets here clashed in a game between Puerto Rico and Italy. Catcher Rene Rivera, born and raised in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, was one of them. He has chided Lugo and Mets infielder T. J. Rivera, a child of the Bronx who is on Team Puerto Rico, about not speaking Spanish.

“It’s special to have those Puerto Rican roots,” Rene Rivera said. “But I tease them to keep it loose.”

Across the field, Italy had shortstop Gavin Cecchini, another Louisiana native, and outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who is from Wyoming.

Nimmo’s last name is Scottish, he said; his Italian heritage comes from his mother’s grandparents, who immigrated to the United States and met in La Junta, Colo.

“I’m not carrying the Italian flag or anything, but I’m very proud of where I come from and the story that’s behind that,” Nimmo said. “It has been passed down, like the Italian food.”

Even though the Italian team recruited Nimmo to play, he had to prove his lineage to make the final roster. Luckily, he said, one of his cousins had recently found a genealogy report for a school project. The cousin also had copies of documents that verified Nimmo’s Italian roots. Italian team officials then found copies of his great-grandparents’ birth certificates, Nimmo said.

“I’ve learned a lot about my great-grandparents in digging into this,” he said. “That’s been a cool bonus.”

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