My name is Nomar Mazara, but you can call me "Big Chill." I'm cool with that. I'm an outfielder for the Texas Rangers, and this is me in real life.
Baseball means everything in the Dominican Republic. It's the top sport there, and every little kid dreams of being in the Major Leagues. I'm only 22, but I have come a long way from sleeping in my baseball uniform with my glove under my pillow in Santo Domingo when I was a boy.
Remember, when we sign with teams at 16 years old, we don't know what to do next. We don't know the language. We don't know anything. We know baseball. We know our families. That's why I'm so grateful I had my family and teammates to guide me along the way.
My father was a general in the Dominican Republic Navy. I remember him traveling to Japan and telling us about his travels around the world, but I didn't realize until I was probably 7 or 8 what his job was and what he meant to our country. You see him in his uniform and as a kid, you think it's cool. But when I found out who he was, it was like, "Wow."
He just carried himself a certain way, and the way he respected people influenced me a lot. He treated everyone the same. Who I am right now is because of him and my mother.
I know what you're thinking: My military father was tough, and he ran our house like a military base. Wrong. He had rules, but my dad didn't talk a whole lot, and my mom was the hard one. My father is a really cool and calm guy. He is the original "Big Chill." Mom was the drill sergeant. She knew basketball was my first love, and I was good at baseball, but academics were more important to her than any sport.
When I was around 13, I started realistically thinking I could be a professional ballplayer. Yes, at 13. And that's when I started working out with a trainer named Ivan Noboa at his academy in the morning and going to school only in the afternoon. Mom did not like that at all. Imagine telling your mother you are going go to school part-time to follow a dream, and there's no guarantee you are going to make it. That's hard, man. But in the Dominican Republic, elementary school kids are having those conversations with their parents every day.
I trained hard at Noboa's academy. I played in the RBI World Series with my good friend and teammate Ronald Guzman, and that's something I will never forget. The goal was always to make it to the Major Leagues. I signed a multimillion-dollar bonus with the Rangers at 16. Ronald got a big one with Texas, too.
You might think we would be nervous. Young teenagers working out for Major League clubs with a chance to sign and make money that can change our lives, but it's not like that. We were just playing a game we loved, and you're just happy that you have a chance to sign with a pro baseball team. Later you realize how much work it is in the Minor Leagues and that it's a job you have to get better at while trying to adjust to life in a new country. Now that's pressure.
The first year I came to the U.S., I lost a lot of weight because I didn't want to eat the food. But I got used to it. That's just the way it is, and you've got to get used to it. You have to adjust.
It didn't take me long to realize I needed to learn English, too. I remember sitting in the middle of meetings during my first year in the U.S. not knowing what any of the coaches were saying. I was so lost, so I started asking my teammates for help.
Joey Gallo was my guy. I would tell him things like, "Every day, you're going to tell me one word so I can repeat it and repeat it, over and over, so I can learn. And then the next day, you're going to teach me another one. So like it or not, you're going be my teacher from now on."
Joey is still there for me, and other guys have helped me, too. Mike Napoli is like my dad. He's always there for me. If I need anything -- anything -- I'm telling you, whatever I want, he's there for me. It's huge to have him in my life.
It's still hard. Baseball is a tough game, but I've been preparing for this since I was 13 years old.
One piece of the advice I would give to the young kids in the Dominican Republic is this: Whatever you want to do in your life, whatever you put in your heart, just do it. If you want to be a baseball player, if you want to be an engineer, if you want to be a plumber, if you want to be a basketball player, just do it. Just go for it. Just make sure your mother is cool with it.
Nomar Mazara is a 22-year-old outfielder for the Texas Rangers. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.