Baseball Brings Hope to Challenging Journey
*Note: Pitcher Marcel Renteria helped translate this story*
Yeizo Campos grew up in Barcelona, Venezuela - the northern part of the country - and immediately found a passion for baseball. His family played a huge role in steering him down this path.
"My grandfather [Orlando] was actually the one, when I was young, who would take me to the field," Campos explained. "He lived right next door, so if I'm in the dugout at our park, my grandpa's house would be in left field. He would throw a whiffle ball to me and I would hit it with a plastic bat. He kinda took me under his wing."
Campos lived in a five-bedroom house with his parents, Sara Mayorga and Enzo Campos, plus his five siblings (two brothers and three sisters).
Campos's mother, Sara, was always helpful to Yeizo during his young playing days. The family did not have a car so Yeizo relied on his mother's cooking.
"My favorite meal she made was arroz, plátano y carne," Yeizo reflected. "It consists of rice, steak, and plantains."
In addition, there was a store that sold chocolates and cookies across the street from his house. He would constantly make little trips there.
His two older brothers, Alexander Mayorga and Goya Mayorga, were instrumental in surrounding him with baseball.
"My brothers always motivated me and took me to the ballpark," said Yeizo. "I credit them for introducing me to this game and showing me that way of life."
Unfortunately, his two supportive brothers passed away due to the violence in Venezuela. This left Yeizo as the only male child in the family.
"I am honored and proud to represent Venezuela," Campos said. "It's a beautiful area, but there has been violence going on over the years. I pray to God the country starts to take a step in the right direction."
Campos continued to work and train towards his goal of signing with a professional organization. Typically, Latin players sign contracts with major league teams at the age of 16 or 17. That was not the case as Campos had to be patient.
"I did have opportunities at a younger age to sign, but the agent I had couldn't quite find the right deal with teams," Campos said. "I was expecting a lot more money for what I was worth as a player."
While trying to remain patient for the right contract, Campos had another setback. He and his wife Oscarina Cedeño expected to welcome a child into the family. Oscarina was six months pregnant and had a miscarriage. They were going to name the boy 'Osmar'.
"I constantly think of my son," Campos explained. "Every time I am out there on the mound, that's who I pray to. I believe he is always right by my side."
Yeizo has a tattoo of his son's name 'Osmar' on his left bicep.
Campos was finally rewarded on March 30, 2016 when the New York Mets signed the once 19-year-old to a free agent contract.
"I was extremely grateful," Campos described. "It was an honor to be selected by the New York Mets and this gave me an opportunity to continue my dream and help my family."
Since joining the Mets organization, Campos constantly keeps his mother, father, and wife updated on his progress. While none of his family members have been able to see him play in the United States, he communicates with them almost daily.
"They always ask me how I am doing along with the rest of my teammates on the Fireflies," Campos said. "I tell them I am just trying to do my job here and hope everything is taken of at home."
The 22-year-old has spent this season in Columbia as both a starting pitcher and a reliever. His first start with the Fireflies was on Mother's Day (May 13) and he tossed four scoreless innings.
"I am grateful to be a part of this team," Campos said. "I really like my team. My personal goal is to focus on commanding my pitches so I can eventually move up, but I also want to win a championship with the team we have."
A professional baseball career has allowed Campos a path to be as supportive as possible to his family and country.
"It's given me the opportunity to leave a country with violence and give my wife and parents what they deserve," Campos said. Of course, motivated.