“Everybody is just in awe every time he steps into the box,” Rays catcher Mike Zunino said of Arozarena. Rays Manager Kevin Cash said Arozarena’s accomplishments were more impressive given that he had no previous experience against many of the pitchers.
Arozarena wouldn’t be doing this if not for his formative time in Mexico. At the Toros’ academy, he grew not only as a player but as a person. Teammates and staff members there helped him buy his first cellphone and open social media accounts (he is now active on Instagram and hosts Facebook chats with fans).
Before the Rays swept Toronto in the best-of-three first round of the 2020 playoffs, Arozarena posed for a photo with a friend he hadn’t seen since their days together at the Toros’ academy: Alejandro Kirk, a Mexican catcher with the Blue Jays.
“He’s Mexican because of his love of the homeland,” Armenta said of Arozarena.
If Arozarena had his way, he would still play in the Mexican winter leagues, as he did for the Mayos de Navojoa in Sonora in three previous off-seasons. He said he loves living in Mérida because it is tranquil and the warm weather year round reminds him of his native island.
His family is around, too: his brother, Raiko, plays for the Cafetaleros de Chiapas, a third-tier Mexican soccer team, and his mother makes him Cuban food often — although he still indulges in his favorite Mexican dish, carne asada tacos.
“It’s like living in Cuba,” he said.
But of course, Arozarena is not. The only bond he feels with his homeland, he said, is the family and friends he left behind and the little town where he was born “where everyone knows me and everyone loves me, and where they loved my dad and I’m proud of being from.” He added that “the situation in Cuba is bad.”