When opportunity came knocking, Jose Bautista bucked the trend in his home country of the Dominican Republic. He didn’t go straight into Major League Baseball’s minor leagues; instead, he went to college first.

THE NEXT GENERATION: “There are a lot of kids watching from all ethnic backgrounds, “ Bautista shares. “I try to lead by example.” Photo: Ishmil Waterman

The long view

For those close to Bautista, that’s not surprising. The Toronto Blue Jays’ star right fielder began playing the sport at age 5 but got serious about a career in it when he was a junior in high school. These days, he’s heading the Bautista Family Education Fund, an organization whose aim is to provide financial support and guidance for student athletes.

“A lot of the time, kids drop out of school and stop playing a particular sport they like because they don’t have a choice,” Bautista says. “They don’t have anyone to guide them—so that’s the void we try to fill.”

You try not to stick out and be different, but you always want to be proud of where you come from.

Bautista, 34, says his parents always encouraged him to value education. Their goal came to fruition when he enrolled in classes at Chipola College, a junior college in Marianna, FL, after which he realized his personal goal of becoming a major league baseball player in 2000 when he was drafted to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Sticking to the game plan

Making the switch from his hometown of Santo Domingo to Florida, however, required some adjustments. The customs between the two regions varied. Not regularly eating lunch and dinner as a family was one cultural difference Bautista had to get used to in North America.

“There’s just that sense of pride when you talk about Latinos and Hispanics because obviously that’s where I’m from,” he explains. “You try not to stick out and be different, but you always want to be proud of where you come from.”

Today, Bautista is trying to be the best role model possible in his daily life as well as through his foundation—all in hopes of inspiring other student athletes to achieve their dreams.

“There are a lot of kids watching from all ethnic backgrounds,” he says, “so I try to lead by example.”