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Portraits of Atlanta immigrants 

9 men and women share their voices, their stories

Page 6 of 10

Name: Eddie Perez

Age: 46

Job: Atlanta Braves Bullpen Coach

Country: Maracaibo, Venezuela

Tell me about when you came to the United States.

It was in 1987, and I was 18 years old. [I] didn't know any English. I didn't know anything. There was a little league championship and I was MVP and then a lot of teams were interested in signing me. I never thought I was going to play professional baseball. We used to live OK. We got the oil company [in Maracaibo], we got a lot of companies from the United States out there, so we live OK.

We had pretty much what we needed. That's a very hot place, where the oil come from. I always thought that I was going to work in those big companies and my dad worked there, my brothers worked there. But I was very good in baseball. And my dad told me, "Are you ready for this?" And I said, "I guess, I don't know." And then he told [me], "Well, you've got to do a lot of things by yourself. You go to another country you gotta do this, you gotta do that."

I was only 18 so I came here and I was part of the Atlanta Braves, and at that time, they were last place all the time, and everybody's like, "You're crazy, why are you going there with that team?"

But I came to West Palm Beach and that's where our spring training was, and I got there at 12 in the afternoon waiting for somebody to pick me up. At 12 at night I thought I better move and I talked to police who were there. I heard him speak Spanish, he was a Cuban guy, and he said, "Yeah, I'll take you, get your stuff in the car." So when I got in the hotel everybody was looking at me [because I was with the police]. I went [to the lobby], they gave me a key. I went around the hotel twice because the rooms used to be 221, 223, 225. I was looking for 222. That was my first day in the United States.

Somebody was supposed to pick you up?

Yeah, that's what they told my dad when they signed me. I was waiting for somebody and nobody showed up and finally I said I better move. I didn't call my mom or my dad after a week, so they didn't know where I was. They were worried, of course.

Why didn't you call your parents for a week?

It was different. There was no cellphones, no emails, nothing like that, so it was hard for me to find out how to call. There was a phone in the room but I don't know how to use it.

Do you remember your impressions of America?

Very different. I think here I was more on my own. You do everything. {in Venezuela], I was at home all the time, we were a very happy family, a together family, you know, we had six brothers, we had no sisters, and my mom was doing everything for us and my dad. We were always together, we're still together. So I got here and I said, "Oh my god, I've got to wash my clothes and cook and do all this stuff." It was a very independent country. That's what I'd call [it].

Is there anything that surprises you about the U.S. in relation to Venezuela?

When I got here, everything was good. The relationship between Venezuela and the United States was perfect, but now since the new president came out a little while ago things have changed. I agree with the United States. I'm 100 percent with the United States.

Being in the minor leagues you probably saw parts of the country Americans haven't seen.

In baseball you travel a lot, and right now we're still doing it, but that's the good thing about America, everywhere you go it's different. I'm going to become a U.S. citizen soon and I've studied all the stuff about the United States and it's very interesting. I'm waiting for the [citizenship] interview. There was something that came up last week that I didn't know [about the U.S.] and probably not many people know about. The national anthem has a question mark on the end.

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