By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For Fox Deportes
Rod Barajas has put together a long career in Major League Baseball, and the Pittsburgh Pirates catcher has at least two accomplishments that not many others in the game can claim.
He has a World Series ring with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2001, and he got to play a full season and part of another for his hometown team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Barajas has been around the game long enough to understand the business side of it, but not being re-signed by the Dodgers was kind of hard to take. Especially after Barajas had endeared himself to many Mexican Americans (like himself) with his presence, and his choice of at-bat music – “Lean Like a Cholo” by Down aka Kilo.
“There’s a lot of people like me in L.A.. Mexican parents were born here in the States, raised in the States. So being around them when we went back to L.A. for Opening Day, when they called my name, a lot of applause,” Barajas said. The Pirates were the Dodgers’ first opponent at Dodger Stadium this regular season. “You don’t get that too often with a visiting player in L.A., so that was nice to hear.”
Barajas has likely gotten accustomed to playing in Pittsburgh by now, but he admitted that it was tough to leave his favorite team as kid and the city where he grew up.
With the Pirates, he’s sharing catching duties, but as with the Dodgers in 2011, Barajas is in the lineup more often than not. Barajas has appeared in 43 games already as of June 10 for Pittsburgh.
“I feel like I’m in a good situation here with a good young team, and I feel like I have a chance to be a part of something special, help the rebuilding,” Barajas said. “But it wasn’t the easiest thing to leave L.A.”
“Lean Like a Cholo” might not go over so well with the unfamiliar locals in the Steel City, but Barajas – not a “cholo” type growing up – maintains ties to his cultural identity.
“I definitely make sure and remember how I grew up and what it’s important me and what I like, and I keep going with it,” he said.
The 36-year-old veteran said he started the season using Dr. Dre music, but also uses War’s “Low Rider” – an old-school tune with clear ties to the Chicano experience.
“I like going up to hit with something that I like and something that reminds me of home,” Barajas said with a smile.
Barajas built a friendship with current Dodgers pitcher Javy Guerra, who tried to use “Lean Like a Cholo,” too, until the comical song was banned by the Dodgers because of its street gang connotation.
Barajas said he only used the song for fun, but that he understands why it is no longer played in the wake of the beating of a San Francisco Giants fan at Dodger Stadium early last season.