THE ARMS OF AN ANGEL
How could we not write a romantic entry about an Angel on Valentine’s Day?
Milwaukee Brewers catching prospect Angel Salome had a 2008 season to remember.
He hit. 360 with 13 homers and 83 RBIs at Double-A Huntsville to run away with the Southern League batting crown and the Brewers’ organization lead in that category. He also finished fourth in the system and fifth in the league in RBIs despite playing in just 98 games. He made his big league debut, joining the Brewers in September and getting pinch-hitting appearances in three games down the stretch.
But Salome also made it a night to remember for more than 3,000 Stars fans in Huntsville, Ala., on May 24 when, surrounded by his teammates at home plate after a game against the visiting Birmingham Barons, he dropped to his knee and proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Johanica Coronado. They wed this past January.
The two have been a couple since their high school days at George Washington High School in upper Manhattan, and are the proud parents of a lovely daughter, Kai-Angeli.
Salome’s somewhat nomadic lifestyle as a professional baseball player may have made it harder to settle down, but he knew it was time and he wanted to make the proposal something special.
That meant, first, getting the blessing of the one person who has been his own biggest role model and influence: his mother, Aydin, a nurse who brought her family to America when her son was 3.
Living in the Washington Heights section of New York City, where there is a huge Dominican population, Salome grew up bilingual and bicultural, a native New Yorker who is still very much grounded in his Latino roots.
In fact, when he signed with the Brewers out of high school as a fifth-round draft pick in 2004, the hardest part of his adaptation process to the minors was missing his mom’s home cooking.
When he headed to Arizona for rookie ball that year, his mom overnighted him 15 pounds of beef. When he came to play for the West Virginia Power in 2006 and the team traveled up to southern New Jersey to play in Lakewood, Aydin came to town with trays of chicken and rice and beans.
Salome needed that sustenance to keep weight on his 5-foot-7 frame, which is all muscle thanks to his number one hobby of working out.
“People used to say to me, ‘Aren’t you too short to be a catcher?’” he recalled. “And I’d say, ‘Yes, I am.’””
GotMiLB: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, in your life are you the proudest? Salome: How my work ethic has gotten better. Thank God I went up to the big leagues where I was surrounded by veteran players like Jason Kendall and Prince Fielder. I would ask them, ‘How do you do it? What do you do in the off-season?’ Not every guy will do the same thing in the off-season. And now, thank God, during the off season I don’t have to work (get a job). On the field, I’m proud of being consistent. I still have to work on a few things but I think things will just get better.
GotMiLB: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t playing baseball?
Salome: I’d probably be in college, maybe studying psychology, or be a real estate agent.
GotMiLB: Do you have other hobbies or creative outlets aside from baseball?
Salome: Going to the gym. I’m not a big fan of running or conditioning but I go to the gym every day and do pull-ups. And I play video games with my friends. I love “The Show”.
GotMiLB: Complete this sentence: It would surprise people to know that I …
Salome: … made it because I’m so short.
GotMiLB: If you could trade places with one person for a day who would it be and why?
Salome: My mother. Because of what she does every day to make me and my sister, and now my daughter, better. She’s my role model. She got up at 4 a.m. every day to go to work, whether it was raining or snowing. She went through a lot of things that were hard.
GotMiLB: Which aspect of life in the minors do you find to be the biggest challenge and why?
Salome: Being away from my family. In the minor leagues you don’t get paid a lot, maybe $600 every two weeks, and from that you have to pay bills plus you have to pay for your apartment. And having a (child) now you have to buy milk and diapers and pay the phone bill because how else are you going to communicate? That’s one of the biggest things I’ve been through.