Spotlight on the Brown: Hold that Tiger!

San Fernando's Matt Nevarez is just one step away from the major leagues, but is already in the hearts of many

By Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: December 1, 2009

Spotlight on the Brown: Hold that Tiger!

About 4 years ago, I did a piece on a high school kid from San Fernando, a young Chicano, who was being scouted by Major League baseball.

This kid owned a 95 mile an hour plus fastball, and a vicious curve ball that probably gave opposing batters nightmares. He was a local baseball and football star at San Fernando High School, the talk of the town, and had the love of a large family, his coaches, and supportive community behind him, but was that enough to get him into the major league draft?

Shortly after my piece was published, Mr. Matthew "Matt" Nevarez was drafted into the farm division of the Texas Rangers, where he did quite well. After a elbow injury, subsequent surgery, and a lot of hard physical work getting back into game shape, Matt was back on his game, rejoining his team and striking guys out with a new vigor.

"Kid's got smoke!" I once heard a veteran scout say at a San Fernando High School game 4 years ago, when Matt was barely 17 years old.

A couple of months ago, he was traded up to the minor league team of the Houston Astros, where he continued performing well‘«™‘«™well enough that earlier this month, he was selected to the 2010 Houston Astros' 40-man roster.

For those who don't know what this means, here's a brief description;

Every year, major league baseball teams announce their roster for the upcoming season. They can only field 25 men in the dugout of all positions, but keep a reserve of 15 men in case of unexpected injuries or the need to make a last minute change and call up a man from the minors, making a total of 40 men on the roster.

‘«™and in the 2010 season, Matt Nevarez is one of those 15 men the Houston Astros may have to call up to the big leagues‘«™just a little over 4 years out of high school‘«™what a dream come true!

4 years later, I caught up with Matt again, while he was visiting his family in San Fernando during the Thanksgiving holiday, and after I heard the news on ESPN.

He has matured. His voice has deepened. He has filled out muscularly well, and even looks taller. He has a beautiful baby son, and a lovely lady by his side. He looks very content with life right now‘«™and I don't know why he shouldn't.

We should all be as lucky to have dreams come true‘«™.

Once again, he's surrounded by a large loving family who are relishing having Matt the family member, not Matt the ballplayer, back home for a brief stay. He's especially surrounded by a multitude of cousins, his two older brothers, neighborhood friends, and his beaming parents, Steve Sr. and Alicia, as they update him on family and neighborhood happenings he's missed.

The excitement and love in the air is palpable‘«™not just because Matt is home, but because the family is once again together, as others not seen in awhile are also given equal welcome, with Matt being one of the first to give out the handshakes and hugs‘«™

‘«™family tradition‘«™and a good one at that.

"It feels so good to be home around my family again," Matt says. " When I first saw my Mom after I came home with the good news, she just cried and hugged me‘«™ I know they weren't tears of pain, and I know she was proud of me. That was such a great feeling! All my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends made me remember why I missed home so much‘«™.and why it made me work even harder while I was away. They have always supported any and everything I've done, and I couldn't let them down."

Taking a serious note, Matt says, "But probably what made me feel more excited than the day I was first drafted 4 years ago‘«™was a private moment I had with my Dad, Steve, and my two older brothers, Steven Jr. and Ruben‘«™guys I have always respected and looked up to‘«™all telling me how proud they are of me, not just because I'm on the way to becoming a major leaguer‘«™but because his son and their little brother has become a man in their eyes. I couldn't buy that type of love for all the money I have, or ever will have‘«™family is the biggest thing and everything to me, and like I've said all my life, I have the best!"

Knowing that more hard, serious work lies ahead as he anxiously waits for "the call", Matt knows that he has to stay focused‘«™the Major Leagues await him. Despite his celebrity status, he is still the humble, soft spoken, respectful, and determined young Chicano I interviewed 4 years ago.

"I know that people might think that I was just lucky, but that's not the only thing that got me where I am. My parents and family have always pushed education, along with sports as a way to make it in this world, and avoid trouble in the street. All my cousins know this. The streets of San Fernando, Sylmar, and Pacoima are not easy ones to survive in, but it can be done. Me, my brothers, and my cousins are all proof of that. I was also lucky to have some great coaches at San Fernando High School like Mr. Armando Gomez and Mr. Johnny Najar, who not only pushed me and many others to excel in sports, but also in the classroom‘«™.and I just can't thank them all enough. Mr. Gomez and Mr. Najar produced a lot of winners at San Fernando High".

What would one so fortunate say to a young man just entering high school this fall?

"Dreams can come true, as long as you stay positive and focused," Matt says with a beaming smile. "You have to have goals in life, and you have to work hard on those goals. Life isn't easy, and it sure isn't free. There's always going to be obstacles and negative people in this world trying to slow you down and change your direction‘«™but you gotta get past them, have more than one dream, follow those dreams, and NEVER give up! family taught me that‘«™and I am where I am because of that !"

The 2010 Major League baseball season is just around the corner, and I anxiously join Matt Nevarez's family, and the entire community of the San Fernando Valley, waiting for that bone tingling, first exciting announcement of a lifetime:

"Now pitching for the Houston Astros‘«™Matt Nevarez‘«™"

About Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the Al Capone of the microphone and the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul heard daily in Internet Radio
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