Sammy Sosa

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Overview

Here is the true story of Sammy Sosa, the baseball player whose extraordinary talent has made him the sport's greatest international ambassador with millions of fans worldwide.

Growing up in the poverty-stricken town of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, Sammy Sosa shined shoes and washed cars to help buy food for his family. For fun, he learned how to play baseball with an empty milk carton as his glove and a wooden stick as his bat. By the time he was 16, he was ...

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Overview

Here is the true story of Sammy Sosa, the baseball player whose extraordinary talent has made him the sport's greatest international ambassador with millions of fans worldwide.

Growing up in the poverty-stricken town of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, Sammy Sosa shined shoes and washed cars to help buy food for his family. For fun, he learned how to play baseball with an empty milk carton as his glove and a wooden stick as his bat. By the time he was 16, he was scouted and signed by the Texas Rangers. And in 1998, Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs joined Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals in breaking the legendary Roger Maris' 37-year-old record of 61 home runs in a single season, changing the history of baseball. Sammy Sosa's amazing story is an inspiring tale of a phenomenal talent, the likes of which hasn't been seen since baseball greats Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio.
— Baseball has seen a resurgence in popularity as millions of fans watched Sammy Sosa make sports history and become a beloved household name everywhere. In 1998 he hit 66 home runs, and then hit another 63 in 1999. Sosa was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1998.
— Over the past two years, Sosa has become a daily fixture on the nightly sports highlight reels and has made appearances on late night talk shows. Sosa is a national commercial spokesman for McDonald's and Montgomery Ward.
— Marcos Breton is the winner of the Guillermo Mar

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Read by many voices, this sports memoir does not have too many statistics, but plenty of action; not too much on training and conditioning, but enough to show determination and the heart of a champion; not too much on the poverty and squalor of the Dominican Republic, but enough that the listener realizes the heights to which a hero may rise. Sosa was baseball's National League Most Valuable Player in 1998, the year in which he and Mark McGwire both broke Roger Maris's record for most home runs hit in a single season. Anyone who was aware of the friendly competition for the home run crown in 1998 will enjoy Sosa's retelling of the story. Moreover, the insights into his family, his love for his country and fellow Dominicans, and the incredible series of circumstances and people that influenced his career add up to a very enjoyable listening experience. Highly recommended for general sports collections.--Cliff Glaviano, Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446527354
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/25/2005
  • Pages: 244
  • Sales rank: 1,075,208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1. The Journey 13
2. Mikey 21
3. My First Contract 39
4. "Mom, We're Millionaires!" 55
5. The Fragile Years 71
6. The Call 91
7. 1990-1991: Swinging Wildly 109
8. 1992: Matters of Destiny 125
9. 1993-1995: Breaking Through 137
10. 1996-1997: On the Verge 157
11. 1998 173
12. Sammy Sosa 197
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First Chapter

The Journey
People always ask me how I stay in shape over the winter when I'm home in my country, the Dominican Republic. Do I have a private gym? Do I have personal trainers? Do I practice on a custom-built, state-of-the-art baseball diamond? You certainly could afford all those things, people say to me. But let me tell you my secret. Three days a week during the off-season, I leave my house in the early afternoon to embark on a journey to a special place-the one place where I prepare for the season ahead. On this journey, I take my bats, my Chicago Cubs gear, and everything else I need to practice the craft of hitting, the skill that has brought me so many blessings and made me known to so many wonderful people.
As a way of saying thank you to all of you who have cheered me and filled my life with so much joy, I write this book and invite you on this journey. It is my hope that when we complete it together, there will be no doubting who I am and what I'm about.
I make this four-hour round trip (I'll tell you where we are going in a minute) to remind myself of where I came from, of what gives me strength, of what made me who I am. And every time I make it, the journey becomes a kind of celebration-not of home runs or millions of dollars, but of faith.
In fact, my life is a celebration of faith-faith in my abilities as a baseball player when no team wanted me, of my faith in God when my family and I were hungry and penniless. And faith in the most important, most cherished person in my life: my blessed mother, Mireya.
It is her I salute, with a touch to my heart and a kiss blown directly into the television cameras, every time I hit a home run. That simple gesture has become like a trademark for me, something that gets written about a lot in the newspapers and the magazines. In all those articles and on television, I always say, "I love you, Mama."
That love has sustained me all my life, all the way back to the place I return to again and again-first as a barefoot boy, now as a person of privilege. It is a town very familiar to baseball fans: San Pedro de Macorís, a city of hope and 200,000 residents.
Before anyone had ever heard of me, San Pedro was known as an amazing city that produced big-league players like no other. Tony Fernandez, who won multiple gold gloves with the Toronto Blue Jays, is from San Pedro. So is Pedro Guerrero, who starred with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1980s. Also from San Pedro are former American League MVP George Bell, and Rico Carty, who was the National League batting champion with the Atlanta Braves in 1970.
And so was pitcher Joaquin Andujar, who had back-to-back 20-win seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1980s. I could go on and on-they could probably assemble an all-star team made up only of San Pedro natives.
The other thing San Pedro is known for is sugarcane. Vendors sell it on street corners there, cutting small wedges and placing them snugly into plastic bags that people buy by the thousands.
There is nothing like it in the world. But garnering that sweet taste and developing a sweet swing in baseball come at a price of back-breaking work and sacrifice. I've paid that price in my life. So going back to the place where I started is like going back to the well for nourishment.
Once there, I often visit my mother, in the home I bought for her-just as I promised I would when I reached the big leagues. But mostly I go back to San Pedro to train, to work out, and to take my cuts in batting practice. Why? Because I could never think of training any place else-though my American friends would probably be amazed to see where I prepare for Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and Kevin Brown.
It's a park where I played as a child, the place where my friend Hector Peguero first saw me uncork a throw from right field as I do now in the big leagues. My brother Luis had taken me to Hector, who was recognized in my town for knowing a lot about baseball. Hector took one look at me, saw my arm strength, turned to my brother and said, "Hay comida." Loosely translated to English, that means, "That arm could pay for a lot of food." But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll come back to that story later.
As we approach the small playground in San Pedro, I'm transported back in time. Whenever my vehicle pulls up, it provides quite a contrast to the humble surroundings. Bumping along a dirt road that leads to a ragged baseball diamond with no infield grass, I witness the same scene each time I come here. Running along each side of my vehicle are young children dressed in stained T-shirts and cut-off shorts. Some shout out my name: "Sammy! Sammy!"
Turning onto the field, I pull up to the third-base dugout. The field itself is rough compared to the baseball diamonds in America. There are stones all over the infield. The outfield grass is hard and patchy. The dugouts are made of stone and painted green-though the paint has been chipping since I was a kid.
The backstop is a sagging, chain-link fence, and there are no bleachers to speak of. The park is in a modest, working-class neighborhood and is filled with small, barefoot children, just like I used to be.
There is great poverty in my country, and it surrounds this park. I used to shine shoes near here. I used to live near here, in a one-bedroom house with dirt floors and no indoor plumbing. Those kinds of dwellings have not disappeared with the passage of time. The people who are always waiting for me at the park in San Pedro live that way today. These are my people.
They know my routine, they look forward to seeing me. And I look forward to seeing them. As I step out of my vehicle, the people are joyous but respectful, coming close to touch but not crowding in as a mob.
Once in the dugout, I have to crouch down to avoid bumping my head on the ceiling. Then I change into my familiar gear: dark blue Cubs shirt, white pants with blue stripes, dark blue baseball spikes.
I tape my wrists, as I do before every game in Wrigley and every other park in the National League. Once ready, my old friend Hector joins me. He still lives here in San Pedro, helping young people learn baseball properly. Other people who have known me since I was a boy are here, too. But they don't call me Sammy. They call me Mikey. That's a nickname that was given to me by my grandmother, who heard the name on a soap opera she liked and decided that from that moment on I would be Mikey. To this day, my mother calls me Mikey. My brothers and sisters call me Mikey. All my old friends call me Mikey. And everyone who comes to the park in San Pedro to watch me practice calls me Mikey, too.
It's a nickname that's so familiar and so closely linked to me that it's become very personal. Everything about my visits to San Pedro is personal and special.
Once I'm dressed, I love to jog around the rough diamond at San Pedro, as I would for any practice on the classic, manicured diamond at Wrigley. I always go once around, all the way around the infield and then the outfield-right, center, and left-and back up the third-base line. By the time I finish my trot, a big crowd has assembled. The people stand behind a long rope down the third-base line, or they stand behind the rusted chain-link fence that acts as a backstop.
I then do calisthenics with my friends in the same way I would do them with teammates on the Cubs. Then we'll do wind sprints in the outfield. Sometimes I do them with a number of small children running along with me. People always ask me how I was able to keep my concentration during the great home run race of 1998, when my friend Mark McGwire and I closed in on Roger Maris's record with the media following us like an army. What I said then is what I would say if people asked how I train seriously with so many people around: I have the kind of concentration where I can shut everything off and focus on what I need to do.
Here in San Pedro, I work out hard no matter how many kids show up, no matter how many adults compete for my attention, tell me their problems, ask for help, or try to get me interested in some idea or some detail they just have to share with me. This is who I am-I love being around people.
Soon it's time for batting practice. Pulling out my own personalized bats, I start slowly and build momentum, lashing home runs and line drives that would go out of any major league park. By the time I get to batting practice, the golden sun of my beautiful island is at its most spectacular. One of the things I love so much about my island nation is the weather. With few exceptions, it's almost always 85 degrees. I think if Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, lived in the Dominican, he'd say, "Let's play two-maybe three-every day."
On this day, a few months before the start of the 2000 season, the balls are flying out, leaping off my bat. I feel strong at the start of a new year. And I'm looking forward to this year like no other because I feel like I'm at the top of my game.
After taking my hacks, I love to sit on a chair very near home plate and watch the local kids, eagerly dressed in baseball uniforms that dangle off their skinny frames, as they take batting practice. I smile as young pitchers and catchers throw that little bit extra into what they are doing, showing off for me. I offer words of encouragement to these kids because for a lot of my youth, encouragement was in very short supply.
My mother always taught me that it doesn't cost anything to be kind to people, to be generous with your heart. And really, by spending time this way, I get as much as I give. After each workout, I feel good and love to stop and talk with people. One by one they approach me, men and women bringing their children, all standing close to me for a picture. There are old friends, too, who knew me when I was young and who talk about old times and laugh with me. Yes, I posed for a lot of pictures this past winter.
Those moments fill me with satisfaction because I still view myself as I always have-as a human being, no better or no worse than anyone else. It's because of these feelings and these beliefs that I think people have been drawn to me.
But what I am today I am because of mother. I treat people well because that's what she taught me. I work hard and do my best because I saw her give her all every day of her life, and she didn't get paid millions of dollars to do it. And I'm grateful for all that I have because in this life everything ends except God-so you should be humble and grateful. I am.
It's been said that athletes have grown distant from the fans because of all the money they make. In my own small way, I'd like to think I'm proving that it doesn't always have to be that way.
Soon, it's time to go home. By the time we get back on the road, I'm dripping sweat, though my workouts don't end there. Like a lot of ballplayers, I'm a night owl-I stay up late and get up late. And a lot of times, as late as 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., I'll work out in my home gym, getting my body prepared for the rigors of a 162-game season.
As the season approached in 2000, my workouts became more grueling, my concentration more focused. I'm not going to predict 60 home runs or anything of that kind for this season, but I do expect a lot of myself right now-at thirty-one, I'm in my prime. As I'm driven back to Santo Domingo, I spend much of my time dealing with the hectic schedule brought on by many commitments.
Chief among them is my commitment to my country, a responsibility I take very seriously. I've made commercials praising the Dominican Republic for its beauty as a tourist destination. I established a foundation that benefits needy Dominican families-a twenty-four-hour job, because there is much need in my country. I have another foundation in my adopted country, the United States. It's the least I could do because America has been so good to me through the years. I mean, how many people get to meet the president of the United States, get to light the national Christmas tree at the White House, and then get singled out at a State of the Union address? It's amazing to me to think about it, but I've gotten to do all those things. So make no mistake, I love America.
The light of my life is my wife and my four children, who depend on me to be husband and father. When I get home, they are all waiting for me, along with my five brothers and sisters, who come and go through my house as if it were their own. That's the way we were always taught by my mother, to love one another and share with one another. That I can help them all today to live better lives is one of the joys in my life. All that love is waiting for me as I turn down the avenue that leads back to my home.
There was once a time when I couldn't even afford to buy myself a bus ticket from San Pedro to Santo Domingo, and now I ride back and forth between the two homes-the two extremes in my life-as if I were a king. It's been a long journey to get to where I am today. I always thought I would get here, I just didn't know how. The journey isn't over, of course. There is still a long way to go. But sometimes I can't believe where I am now, so far from San Pedro, from the place where I started, at a time when everyone knew me as Mikey.
Copyright _ 2000 by Sammy Sosa"
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