Baseball legend Tony Oliva thought he would only be in the U.S. for a few months before returning to Cuba. Life had other plans, however, and he was here to stay.
Born in the city of Pinar del Río, Mr. Oliva grew up in a large family with nine siblings. He spent his free time working on the family farm, fishing with his family, and playing baseball. His love for the game of baseball led Mr. Oliva to visit the United States to train with an American team, a common path for Cuban baseball players.
In 1961, Mr. Oliva arrived in Florida for spring training with the Minnesota Twins. When a year had passed, he was preparing to return to Cuba. The Twins had other plans for him; they extended his contract. Mr. Oliva was faced with a difficult decision: stay in the US or return to Cuba, likely never to return to America. In the end, he chose to move to Bloomington, Minnesota .
Mr. Oliva played his entire 15-year career with the Minnesota twins from 1962 to 1976. He was an eight-time All-Star, a three-time AL batting champion, and a golden glove winner. He was voted the American League Rookie of the Year in 1964. After retiring from baseball, he remained with the Minnesota Twins as a batting coach. He and his wife have four children and five grandchildren.