As part of the season-long Béisbol Experience rollout, we will be releasing an interview every day from June 15 to 25. Find all of them at espn.com/beisbolexperience.
This interview was conducted in Spanish and translated.
Three months into the season, Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor is on track to blow away his career-high 15 home runs from last year and become a two-time All Star at just 23. Here, he talks to Marly Rivera about his childhood in Puerto Rico and how he learned to be independent after moving to the U.S.
How did you start playing baseball?
I started playing baseball at age 4 because my family has always played baseball and I always wanted be like my brother and my cousin.
Did the fact that you’re from Puerto Rico influence you to play baseball and not another sport?
It’s our primary sport. It influenced me a lot that my family played the game. My dad was the first, thanks to Roberto Clemente and all the lineage that played then. Being Puerto Rican has a lot to do with me playing ball.
Why did your family move to the U.S.?
We moved to learn the culture and because my sister is handicapped and we wanted better treatments to help her. I always wanted to leave Puerto Rico to play with a higher level of competition, but the reason I moved to the United States was not to play in Major League Baseball.
What was the biggest culture shock when you got here?
In Puerto Rico, everyone knows everyone. All the neighbors know each other, come out, talk. In the U.S., everyone is apart. It’s more private. I walked in the house of everyone in my development. We’d always get together at the same time — my brother, his friends, my sister’s friends, everyone. We were all different ages, but we’d all get together. It was very different. I didn’t have this group of friends. When I went on the street the whole world was out there. Christmases were totally different. That was the hardest thing for me to adjust to in American life.
Did the move to the U.S. help you expand your circle?
Definitely. I think it helped me understand how Americans are, to understand the things they do and to understand the things that we Latinos do and have the opportunity to talk to both sides. It helped me to become more independent, because that’s the thing with the Americans. They are a bit more independent because that’s how they are raised. They stay inside their quiet homes. We Latinos always stick together. I’m not saying the Americans don’t, but Latinos are more familiar. They look for each other.
Who did you live with in the minor leagues? How did you adapt to being without your family?
The first year I had a host family. The second year I was alone at first and then lived with Joseph Colón, and then the third year I lived alone. Since I was at a school I got used to [being away from my family]. My family is everything to me. I talk with someone in my family every day. Being away from them is difficult. It’s hard sometimes when you want to share with them those moments you’ve dreamt about your whole life. You want your family to be there so they can be with you and have this experience and that emotion. That’s one of the reasons my mom lives with me now.
What are the main differences between fans in the U.S. and in Latin America?
The rumba. I’ve always dreamed of going back to play in Puerto Rico and listening to the pleneras [drums] and the maracas. The Americans don’t applaud at the end of a winning game the way the Latinos do. They’re good fans because they’re passionate about their players and their team, but as a Latino I miss the pleneras, the people screaming, the songs, the controversy.
Are you comfortable dating outside your ethnicity?
I’d feel comfortable with an American, but I’d prefer a Latina because it’s not the same when you tell a joke in Spanish and when you tell it in English.
How has your success changed the people around you?
I don’t pay much attention to that. My family, my uncles, my cousins — we’ve always been the type of people to stay the same. They don’t treat me differently because I’m doing something different. I’m Paquito. I’ve always been Paquito.