Think back to the first time you moved away from home; the fears and adjustments that came with living in a new place among unfamiliar faces. Now imagine having to go through that process in a foreign country and the challenges that would pose.
This is a scenario that thousands of baseball players face, as they leave their homelands for a chance at Major League glory. Silver Hawk outfielder Ender Inciarte moved away from his hometown of Maracaibo, Venezuela, after being signed by the Diamondbacks as a non-drafted free agent in 2008.
"The first year was really tough for me," said Inciarte. "I was missing my family the whole time."
Both the Silver Hawks and Arizona Diamondbacks organization help the foreign players adjust to living in America. The Silver Hawks provide the players with host families that take the players out to dinner and give them familiar faces in the area. Additionally, the Diamondbacks require that the players take English classes*, something that has helped Inciarte tremendously.
"The teachers they provide us help us a lot," said Inciarte. "They help us learn to talk the right way and be educated."
Also helping Inciarte is the advice of players who have been in the same situation before, notably former Silver Hawks and current Major Leaguers Gerardo Parra (2007) and Carlos Gonzalez (2004, 2005). Gonzalez is from Maracaibo like Inciarte and has served as both a friend and idol for Ender.
"They're always trying to give me advice," said Inciarte. "They had great seasons here so they tell me what to do, what to think, and to be focused on the game. They've really helped me out."
Professional baseball players coming from Maracaibo is becoming commonplace, with names such has Luis Aparicio and Wilson Alvarez setting the trend for today's players like Inciarte. The talent is formed in an intense Little League system, as a team from Maracaibo that featured Inciarte's older brother won the Little League World Series in 2000.
"That's a big thing down there," said Inciarte. "We all wanted to be part of those big games."
As opposed to most American-born players who are drafted, most foreign players are not eligible and sign as non-drafted free agents. The process can be "difficult" according to Inciarte, but when the call comes it's the experience of a lifetime.
"My agent called me at [midnight] and said 'Ender, can I see you tomorrow? You're going to sign a contract with the Diamondbacks,'" said Inciarte. "I was like, 'What? Are you serious?' I'll never forget that day."
That day begin a long adjustment period for Inciarte, but through help from teams, teammates, and friends, Ender is beginning to feel more at home.
"I'm getting used to it," said Inciarte. "I talk to my family every day and I feel comfortable now."
* "The Ketchup Remix", a song the Latin players created to help practice their English, can be viewed by clicking the link at the side of this page.
The Ender Inciarte File
Born: October 29, 1990 in Maracaibo, Venezuela
Resides: Maracaibo, Venezuela
Obtained: Signed as a non-drafted free agent on May 25, 2008
Favorite Team and Why?: "Diamondbacks, because they signed me and gave me this opportunity"
Favorite Food: "Pizza"
Favorite Movie: "Just Friends"
Pre-game rituals: "Hear my favorite songs and pray to God"
Most Memorable Baseball Moment: "First home run and playoffs"
Interesting Fact About Yourself: "I live the game and enjoy life every second"
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.