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Brooks Luther

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Miguel Urbina: Adopted Puerto-Rican Baseball Player

Baseball is not just a sport. It’s more than men throwing a ball over 95 mph and hitting a

ball over 425 feet. It’s more than over 35,000 people filling up a stadium and cheering on their

favorite team. It’s a way for people to connect to each other through a common passion. It

connects friends, brothers and sisters, strangers, and parents and kids. In some cases, it connects

a boy to his adoptive father, as is the case with Miguel Urbina, Jr.

1998 was an eventful year for the people of Puerto Rico. In the summer, nearly 500,000

Puerto Ricans protested a privatization plan of the Puerto Rico Telephone Company. A Category

3 hurricane, Hurricane Georges, slammed the island in late September. In December, those living

on the island took part in a vote on the referendum status of Puerto Rico. Miguel Urbina, Jr. was

just a few months while all of these events were happening.

Photo by Belisa Urbina

Miguel Urbina, Jr. was born on March 31, 1998, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the island’s

capital. A shy, mild-mannered teenager, he doesn’t remember much of his life in Puerto Rico

because he came to the United States the following year. “I lived in Puerto Rico for a little bit,

but I was too young to remember what it was like living there,” said Miguel Jr. But it was in

1998, a few months after his birth, that his life would dramatically change. Before his first

birthday, Miguel Jr. was adopted by Miguel Urbina, Sr.

A short man, Miguel Urbina, Sr. personality stands tall. Very outgoing, he preaches that

loving one other is the key to healthy relationships. “The adoption process for Miguel Jr. was

hard. But I loved him from the moment I saw him, and that made it worth it,” said Miguel Sr.

This love was made easier because a couple of years earlier, Miguel Sr. had adopted Carlos, the

older true blood brother of Miguel Jr. “Both Carlos and Miguel were adopted a few months after
they were born, with Carlos being adopted earlier because he is older,” said Miguel Sr. Miguel

Sr. described the adoption process as hard with copious amounts of paperwork and background

checks, but being able to add two more children to his family made it all worth it in the end.

Miguel Sr. brought the younger Miguel, Carlos, his wife, and his biological son Kevin to

the United States in 1999. “Despite being adopted and not being born in the US, I still feel like I

had a very traditional childhood,” Miguel Jr. said. From his early days, Miguel Jr. was taught the

game of baseball by his new father. All the ins and outs, the obscure rules, the situations, and the

players. Miguel Jr. soaked in every bit of information. Although the elder Miguel attempted to

teach Kevin and Carlos the same things about baseball, it was Miguel Jr. who shared the same

passion for baseball as Miguel Sr.

The alarm clock sounds. He looks at the clock. It reads 5:15 am. He has 45 minutes to get

out of bed, get ready, and arrive at the gym for workouts by 6 am. He pulls into the parking lot at

5:45. His teammates on the Georgia Highlands College baseball team are filing into the gym

along with Miguel Jr. The members of the two-year junior college program have a CrossFit

workout today that features burpees, pull-ups, clean and press, squat jumps, and a timed run.

Miguel Jr. completes his workout in less than 15 minutes, sweat dripping off his face and soaked

into his shirt. “Miguel is one of the hardest working kids I’ve played with. He puts the team

before the team, and he is always encouraging his teammates,” said Matthew Vaccaro, a

teammate of Miguel at Georgia Highlands.

Now, it’s back home for a shower, breakfast, protein shake, and off to class. Class at 8

am, another at 10 am, and a final class at noon. After that class, Miguel Jr. goes to a nearby

Chick-fil-A and orders his favorite, a deluxe spicy chicken sandwich meal. After lunch, he heads
to Old Cass High School in Cartersville, GA where the Georgia Highlands baseball team

practices during the fall semester. “Playing baseball in college has been amazing. I love my

teammates, love the coaches. It can be a grind at times with long practices and workouts, but it

helps us get better as a team,” says Miguel Jr.

Miguel Jr. has only had a few coach throughout his life. This is because his father

coached him from the time he could pick up a bat to the time that he entered high school. “I

don’t think I could have had a better coach when I was young. My dad taught me everything I

needed to know about baseball,” the younger Miguel said. The elder Miguel could not be more

proud of the way his son developed as a player and as a man over the course of his life. “I’m

very proud of him. Being his coach, it was an interesting and worthwhile experience. I had lots

of time to share my knowledge and allow him to grow. And helped him to find his maximum

potential,” said Miguel Sr.

Photo by Belisa Urbina

Miguel Jr. believes that having his adoptive father as his coach is the only way it could

have been for him. “If I hadn’t been adopted, I don’t think I would even be playing baseball at

this point of my life. It was amazing having him as my coach.” Hailing from a homeland where

baseball is practically a religion and where many MLB players are from Puerto Rico, this

statement is significant coming from Miguel Jr.

Following a three hour practice, Miguel heads to his grandma’s house for a home-cooked

meal, then heads back home. At this point, Miguel works on his homework, if he has any that

night, then concludes his night by playing video games on his PlayStation 4. Usually, it’s time

for bed at 11 pm.

After settling down in the United States at the turn of the century, Miguel Sr. set about

teaching his three sons about life as men. “I wanted them to be honest, loyal, faithful,

responsible, and to put the family before themselves,” the elder Miguel said. The key values that

Miguel Jr. took away from his father is to never judge others and to be respectful of others.

Miguel and his family have always gotten along well for as long as he can remember. “I’ve

always gotten along with my brothers. I see them both as my blood brothers. I also see my

adoptive parents as if they were my biological parents,” Miguel Jr. said.

His brothers share the same views as Miguel Jr. Carlos, his blood brother, is unable to

imagine life without Miguel there and is happy they were adopted by the same family. Kevin,

Miguel’s non-biological brother, was young when Miguel and Carlos were adopted and never

thought of them as anything other than his brothers. “We might as well be blood brothers

because we get along so well,” Kevin said. “Me and Miguel have different interest for Kevin.
We’re more into sports and cars and Kevin is into movies and music. So, I think I’m a little

closer to Miguel. But we all get along well,” said Carlos.

Miguel Jr. was like any other young child growing up, running around the house, causing

chaos, accidentally breaking things. He was also very curious about who he was. When he was 5

years old, his curiosity got the best of him. “He found out he was adopted and started crying at

first because he seemed scared. After he calmed down, he told everyone like it was news and

thought everyone should know he was adopted. He then asked if he could be returned, which was

a funny moment,” Miguel Sr. said. Miguel Jr. eventually grew to understand the story of his

adoption and is content with the way things played out in his life.

Some of the defining years of Miguel Jr.’s life was his high school years. He was a

standout outfielder for the North Paulding High School baseball team, had many close friends in

the school, and grew as a person. Miguel was never faced with severe teasing due to his being

adopted. “There some small jokes, but never anything that I took offense to,” he said. He played

on some excellent teams during his time in high school. His freshman year, as a member of the

junior varsity team, he helped lead the team to the county championship. He made the varsity

team as a sophomore and remained a key player through his senior year. He helped the team

reach the third round of state playoffs as a sophomore and the first round as a senior. “He was a

leader on our team senior year. He was a huge part of our team making the playoffs that year,”

said Eric Goldstein, a pitcher at North Paulding.

It was his performance during his senior year that earned a spot on the team at Georgia

Highlands College. He helped the team win their conference during his freshman year.
Photo by Miguel Urbina, Sr.

Since moving to the US, Miguel Jr. and his family have gone back to Puerto Rico several

times to visit. Each visit has brought a different experience to Miguel. On one of the latest visits,

Miguel met his biological father. “It was a short meeting, but I enjoyed it. It was a unique

experience, to say the least,” he said. Despite this interaction with his biological father, Miguel

has yet to meet his birth mother. They do, however, have some communication via Facebook.

“It’s not much, but I do appreciate the effort that they put in to have a relationship with me. I

may not fully understand why they gave me up, but being able to talk to them occasionally is

nice. I’m happy with my family now, and that’s what matters.”

For this story, I would have liked to have asked one of Miguel’s coaches a few questions

about him as a person and a player. I was unable to establish contact with one of his college

coaches or one of his coaches from high school. I also would have liked to ask his brothers,

Kevin and Carlos, a few more questions about Miguel, but I was unable to due to their time

constraints. An additional interview that could have been significant for this story would have

been his mother, Belisa Urbina. While I was able to get a picture that she took of Miguel

recently, when I interviewed the other members of the family, she was out of the house. Despite

this, I feel the interviews with his father, brothers, teammates, and Miguel himself help to give

the story impact and significance.


Miguel Urbina, Jr.

Kevin Urbina
Carlos Urbina

Miguel Urbina, Sr.

Eric Goldstein

Matthew Vaccaro