07/14/2003 8:12 PM ET
Mora's past paved path
CHICAGO -- Venezuela has been hard on Baltimore Orioles All-Star left fielder
Melvin Mora. In most instances, he wouldn't have it any other way.
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Recovering from a .233 performance last season to fashion a .349 average that
has him second in the American League in hitting wasn't as tough
as growing up playing in Venezuela, where youngsters were clawing for their big
Playing for the New York Mets in 2000 and dealing with the hype of the Subway Series wasn't as stressful as playing Winter Ball in Venezuela, where rabid fans don't want to
hear that it's the offseason for Major Leaguers.
Mora, a 31-year-old infielder and outfielder who was born in Aqua Negra, Venezuela, credits his home country in many ways. For one, it has helped him develop the toughness that
has taken him from someone seemingly destined to be a career minor leaguer to a player who will be making his first career All-Star appearance on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field.
"I can't describe it. You need to go to Venezuela and feel it," said Mora, who has 13 home runs and 45 RBIs.
Lately, Venezuela has offered some obstacles that even Mora can't crack.
This past winter, a strike in protest
of the government brought the country to a standstill and forced the Winter Ball
season to be halted soon after it began. The season was eventually canceled.
The fallout from the turbulent Venezuelan winter touched Mora again during this happy
Mora wanted his mother, Felipa, to come to the U.S. and share in the All-Star experience. She would have been part of a sizeable group. Mora and his wife, Gisel, have quintuplets who are almost 2 years old: boys Christian and
Matthew David and girls Genesis, Rebekah and Jada Priscilla. Also joining Melvin and Gisel Mora in Chicago are Gisel's daughter, Tatiana, and her parents and brother.
Still, the Moras could have used another babysitter, if nothing else.
But tightened U.S. security and an iffy system in his home country nixed the
idea of getting his mom a visa.
"Mom couldn't make it because it was too late to get a visa," said Mora, who was
officially selected to the All-Star team on July 6. "It's hard. You need more stuff to show them.
The security is hard. ... Sometimes you interview with the good people there, and
it's alright. But sometimes you get people that don't like you, and that's it: 'Go home I don't want you to be here.' "
Still, Mora's heart is never far from home.
After spending his first seven pro seasons in the minors, Mora finally made it
to the Mets in 1999 and batted .161 in 66 regular-season games. But he made
a major statement by posting a .466 average in the NL Championship Series loss
Mora maintained his confidence through the ups and downs of the next few seasons. He was traded to Baltimore in 2000, and his average dropped. Also, the quintuplets were born and Mora had various injuries.
But he kept plugging away and traded advice with fellow Venezuelan players, such as Chicago White Sox All-Star right
fielder Magglio Ordonez, who offered support during the offseason. Mora gave
Ordonez tips on defensive play, and Ordonez offered hitting advice.
"When you can play in New York, you can play anywhere else, and when you play
Winter Ball in Venezuela, you can play anywhere else," Mora said. "The way we
play in Venezuela is hard baseball. When you play in the United States, you're
Now Mora is putting it all together in a place where he is comfortable.
"Baltimore is a nice place to play -- anybody would want to be in Baltimore," he said. "It's a nice stadium, great fans. I love representing the Baltimore
Orioles in the All-Star Game. The way they treat me in Baltimore makes me feel
However, it was playing in less comfortable atmospheres that has made him a
player that Baltimore fans find special.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for
MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.