Rockies center fielder Willy Taveras is proud to be the second Major Leaguer to come from Tenares, Dominican Republic. The first was Geraldo Guzman, a former Diamondbacks pitcher who was released from the Expos in his first shot at pro ball, came back and worked as a carpenter, then got discovered at a tryout.
"I know him, and I'm so proud of him," Taveras said. "My hometown has a few more guys coming up in the Minors now."
Taveras, known to fans as "Willy-T," is speedy on the field and a fast learner off the field. In 2002, while preparing to play in Class A in the Indians organization, Taveras concocted a deal that made him much more comfortable in the U.S. He arranged to be a roommate of fellow outfielder Luke Scott; if Scott would teach him English, he would teach Scott healthy Dominican cooking. On road trips, they'd carry a cooler of Dominican staples such as rice, beans and vegetables, along with a crock pot. Teammates could eat their cuisine for a nominal fee.
English served Taveras well. The following season, he would meet the future Jennifer Taveras while playing in Kinston, N.C. The couple celebrated the birth of their first child, a daughter, Marina Brice Taveras, on July 10.
Taveras believes in being a man of all cultures. He has a number of American friends in baseball. They'll call one another segueing back and forth between English and Spanish. He also immediately befriended Japanese second baseman Kazuo Matsui. Taveras hangs with Matsui, trying to pick up Japanese. Sometimes, even without music, Taveras has been witnessed teaching Matsui to meringue.
Taveras shares more with all-time stolen base king Rickey Henderson than fast feet. They are two of 67 players in history to be born on Christmas Day. That figure includes two other active players in 2007, Mets second baseman Ruben Gotay and Red Sox left-handed pitcher Hideki Okajima.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.