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Miguel Tejada: 1976—: Baseball Player

Grew Up In Poverty

Miguel Odalis Tejada Martinez was born on May 25, 1976, in Bani, Dominican Republic, to Daniel and Mora Tejada. He was the youngest of eight children in the family, which included two brothers, one step-brother, and four step-sisters. Tejada spent most of his childhood in the Barran-cones slum neighborhood of Bani, a city of about 100,000 people located on the island's southern coast on the Caribbean. Jobs in Bani often did not pay well and Tejada and his family found they all had to be gainfully employed to make ends meet. Tejada's mother often left the family to work as a cleaning lady and bakery worker in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo. Tejada also helped with the family finances by working as a shoeshine boy when not attending school. At the age of eleven, he dropped out of school to work in a clothing factory. After working all day at the factory, Tejada played baseball with his older brothers and the other young boys of Barrancones, some of whom saw a career in baseball as a way out of the slum.

At a Glance . . .

Born Miguel Odalis Tejada Martinez on May 25, 1976, in Bani, Dominican Republic; son of Daniel and Mora Tejada. Religion: Roman Catholic.

Career: Oakland A's, short stop, 1997–.

Awards: American League Most Valuable Player, 2002.

Addresses: Baseball team—Oakland Athletics, Network Associates Colesium, 7000 Colesium Way, Oakland, CA 94621; (510) 638-4900. Official Website: http://www.oaklandathletics.com.

Tejada's life changed abruptly when his mother died, possibly from pneumonia, in December of 1989. His father left Bani to find work shortly thereafter, leaving Tejada in the care of his then-sixteen-year-old brother, Denio. "My father had to go away to work, because we didn't have any money," Tejada remembered in Away Games, a 1999 book that traced his career, "So I would only see him once a month, sometimes less." With his family in disarray and surrounded by poverty, Tejada found stability in playing baseball. As a fourteen-year-old, Tejada joined the training camp run by Enrique Soto, a man who would put him on his path to the majors.

Soto had played in the minor leagues in the United States as a draftee of the San Francisco Giants, but had been frustrated by the experience. Lacking English-speaking ability, he quickly floundered and returned to the Dominican Republic, where he started to run a small baseball training camp in Bani as a scout for the Oakland Athletics. Soto and Tejada had a rocky relationship at first, as the young player was not used to the discipline that the coach demanded. In terms of his work habits and determination to succeed, however, Tejada was second to none. Although he was one of the smaller players—as an adult, he would reach only five-feet, nine-inches, not large by major-league stan-dards—Tejada was already a powerful hitter and an extremely agile infielder. His first tryout at the A's training camp in Santo Domingo, however, did not impress the team's agents, who at first dismissed Soto's advice to sign the young player. After several more weeks of seeing Tejada in action, Chago Marichal finally signed the athlete to the A's on July 17, 1993, but for a mere $2,000 signing bonus. The bonus did not lift Tejada out of poverty, but it did allow him to buy some clothes and furniture for his family.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Nate Smith Biography - Fought His Way into the Union to Theodosius II BiographyMiguel Tejada: 1976—: Baseball Player Biography - Grew Up In Poverty, Signed To The Oakland A's, Won League's Highest Honor