Adam and Will Rosales proselytize for baseball – The Mercury News

KANSAS CITY – Will Rosales was 5 when he came north with his family, immigrating from Mexico to settle in the U.S.

And the family didn’t settle just anywhere. They settled down the street from Wrigley Field where he became a baseball fan, although not, curiously enough, a Cubs fan. The passion for baseball runs deep in Will Rosales, who has spent the first two weeks of the season wherever the A’s are, following the team and his son, Adam, the A’s backup infielder.

Sixty years after his arriving in the U.S., Will Rosales found himself last Friday with his son at one of Adam Rosales’ Sandlot Nation gatherings. Sandlot Nation brings a couple of dozen kids together to talk baseball and education and, most important, to play some ball. In this case, it was in McKinney, Texas, about an hour way from Arlington, the site of the A’s game that night.

Sandlot Nation is Adam Rosales’ non-profit effort to proselytize for baseball, attempting to expand possibilities for interested kids and to win new adherents for the sport to which Will and Adam Rosales are so devoted. In a number of cities the team will visit this year, including Seattle, Anaheim and Houston in addition to Arlington, they will bring together groups of kids for 9-on-9 or 10-on-10 games.

There may be some Sandlot Nation outings in the East Bay, too, although as Adam Rosales explains, “It’s tougher at home because I need to spend that free time with my family.” On the road, the time is there.

During the meetings, Adam Rosales tells his baseball story, explains his passion, talks about the importance of integrating education with sports and then gets on the mound.

“I pitch for both teams,” he said. “And we have the kids play all different positions. We talk about it being a good idea not to settle into one position until they’ve tried them all.”

While this is going on, Will Rosales connects with the parents of the kids, answering their questions about raising a professional athlete and telling his story about a deep connection with baseball that he’s more fully able to explore since retiring last year. He’s 65, and now that he has the time, when he’s home in the Chicago area he plays in not one but two senior baseball leagues, pitching and playing the outfield.

“It’s a joy for me to see these kids play the game,” Will Rosales said of the Sandlot Nation excursions. “And it’s a joy to see how much Adam gets into it. The kids really enjoy his interaction, and he’s like a big brother to all of them. Every inning they change positions, they’re all giving him high-fives.

“Everybody on the field is included, and he’s like a mentor to these kids.”

Will Rosales said he grew up playing baseball and basketball but it was never an option to pursue any athletic endeavor beyond just playing around. His father, Tom, liked baseball enough to take them to Major League games. But rather than walk to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs, they’d drive to the South Side to see the White Sox.

“Dad would take us to Comiskey Park once or twice a year,” Will Rosales said. “He preferred the White Sox, and that’s the exposure I got to the Major Leagues. I don’t know that I ever went into Wrigley, although there was a hot dog seller in front of the park that I loved when we were near.

“And dad liked to take us to Lincoln Park and hit fungos to my twin brother, Javier, and me. He liked baseball and passed that on to us.”

Tom Rosales also thought about what his kids needed to survive. He preached the importance of education, so Will was ever the vigilant student, first at Brigham Young, and then for the final two years of his college career at Northeastern Illinois in Chicago.

But the baseball passion never left him. And when Adam proved to be a good enough at baseball to play collegiately at Western Michigan, Will was all for it, with a caveat.

“As a dad, I never felt the need to push sports,” Will Rosales said. “When Adam had the chance to play at Western Michigan, I just told him that baseball was a good way to get an education, and that was my primary goal for him.

“I just wanted him to know that he needed to work not just at his schoolwork and not just at his baseball, that he’d have to put in the time with both of them. And he did that.”

Adam Rosales said his push with Sandlot Nation, a notion he developed last season when he was playing with the San Diego Padres, is in many ways a reflection of his father’s belief in both education and baseball.

“You look around and funding for sports in school is falling off, in some places up to 30 percent,” he said. “When I looked around at what I could do, I hit on this. I don’t want to see baseball relegated to becoming just a club sport. I think it’s a necessary thing to have in school.

“I grew up with every chance to play ball, and I’d like to think that kids now will have the same opportunity.”

Adam Rosales has turned into a crusader for his sport.

“I want to raise awareness for the sport and help create passion for it,” he said. “To me, it’s the American sport.”

And his father couldn’t be more pleased.

“Baseball is his profession,” Will Rosales said. “And like in any profession there will be challenges, the need to perform and the need to be reviewed. More than that, you need to love it to be successful, and Adam does.

“You see it when he plays, and you see it when he’s out there with those kids.”

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