Carlos Carrasco wanted to go home. In 2004, a few days into his first spring training, everything felt so different from life in Venezuela, “the language, the food, the culture, everything.”
The teenager went to the office of Salomon Artiaga, director of Latin American operations for the Philadelphia Phillies. Mr. Artiaga wrote the book on helping players like Carrasco navigate life in America.
“From that point, 2004 to 2019, he’s one of my best friends,” said Carrasco, now a multimillion-dollar pitcher for the Cleveland Indians.
Mr. Artiaga taught Carrasco everything, “English ... how to play this game, how to talk to my teammates the right way, how to learn to respect my teammates, the coach, all that kind of stuff.”
Mr. Artiaga, who spent his career in baseball, died on Feb. 16 at 72 from complications due to liver failure. He changed how players and teams viewed the work of cultural assimilation.
The Palm Harbor man grew up in Los Lunas, N.M., in a family with Spanish heritage. He started his pro-ball career in 1965 as assistant business manager for the El Paso Sun Kings. He worked with the Tampa Tarpons as general manager, then with the Cincinnati Reds before starting an eight-year stint with Minor League Baseball, including three years as president. There, he helped start the Dominican Republic summer league.
The father of four went on to work in player development with the Chicago White Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Kansas City Royals. He retired in 2012 after nearly 50 years in the sport.
Pat O’Conner, Minor League Baseball’s president and CEO, doesn’t know of a major league team without a program like what Mr. Artiaga started.
Mr. Artiaga’s 162-page, bilingual book, The Development of a Major League Player: Preparing the Player from Latin America, guides players through cultural differences, learning English and understanding the business of baseball. He also wrote The English/Spanish Baseball Handbook and taught young players “pretty much everything from renting an apartment to ordering a hamburger,” said son Terence Artiaga.
“There are players in the game that may not have made it if my father wasn’t around.”
And it wasn’t because of their skills on the field.
Sal Artiaga's 2004 handbook aimed to help young players from Latin America be successful in the United States. In the 162-page book, he covered everything from cultural differences to signing a lease.
Think about what it would be like, as a 16- or 17-year-old, to be dropped into another country with another language and another culture, O’Conner said.
“In a 24-hour day, the best six hours for those young men is at the ballpark.”
Mr. Artiaga wanted them to work hard off the field, too, to take responsibility for their success and to thrive “not only in baseball,” O’Conner said, “but in America.”
Mr. Artiaga often told young Carrasco to remember the example set by Hall-of-Famer Roberto Clemente.
“He told me, you...look into the mirror. You are one of those guys that do everything.”
Mr. Artiaga didn’t teach players to catch, O’Conner said. He never taught them to hit.
“But he was as instructive in their success as any coach in a uniform.”
Senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Want to know more about Mr. Artiaga? Head over to Instagram and @werememberthem and see how one son will remember him. Know someone who has recently died whom we should write about? Send suggestions to Kristen Hare at [email protected].
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