Former Minnesota Twin Tony Oliva made his mark on the game of baseball as a player between 1962 and 1976, but in the middle of July, Major League Baseball called his name again to head to Cooperstown, New York for his National Baseball Hall of Fame induction.
At 84 years old, the Pinar del Rio, Cuba native waited patiently for his invitation to Cooperstown, following a career that saw him record 220 home runs, 947 RBIs, a .304 batting average and eight all-star appearances.
“Tony and David Ortiz came out and they were just pumping their hands, and just enjoying the moment… When he was giving his speech you could almost tell like it was a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Now his legacy is forever and always in Cooperstown,” said Nathan Resler, who lives in Owatonna and attended the ceremony in New York in association with Oliva’s group.
According to Resler, Oliva was honored on stage with a plaque and gave his speech to a flood of onlooking supporters before the ceremony concluded, and another class of Hall-of-Fame players was officially enshrined.
One thing I have always come to love about sports is that aside from the results and fixtures, there are stories of unique individuals coming together to culminate in a moment that lives forever in the history of the game.
From a perspective looking at Oliva’s career, the journey to Cooperstown was a collection of years of sacrifice and hard work to achieve his moment.
Born in Cuba, Oliva was raised in a large family consisting of his two parents and nine siblings.
In order to live out his dream of playing professional baseball in America, Oliva had to leave Cuba and his family.
On his journey to trailblaze his own path in a new country, Oliva became a cornerstone in the Twins franchise providing the team with all-star-quality play and giving fans lifelong memories along the way.
However, after all of the giving Oliva had done for the game and its fans, the game and the state of Minnesota decided it was time to give back to him.
Not only would Oliva go on to be cemented amongst baseball’s best to ever play on July 24, but he would get the opportunity to do so alongside his brother.
After receiving a visa with the help of Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office, Juan Carlos Oliva was able to come to Minnesota to be with his brother in time for his induction ceremony.
It’s moments like these that make it hard not to be romantic about sports.
A lifetime of dedication to a craft and sacrifices made to achieve a level of greatness that only a few are able to attain, all come together in a moment shared between one man and a host of people who have been lucky enough to enjoy the journey along the way.