NEW YORK -- Driving a taxi can sometimes be the last resort for Dominican men who migrate to New York City from often-unheard-of towns.
And while these cabbies work their own schedules and don't have to answer to a boss, danger lurks in their minds as many have been assaulted or even murdered while trying to get that next fare that'll raise the extra money needed to bring home food and pay the month's rent and utilities. I'd know from experience, as my dad has traveled up and down Broadway for over 20 years while on a few occasions being the victim of an assault.
Pittsburgh Pirates rookie third baseman Pedro Alvarez is batting .235 with 11 home runs in 77 games. He received a $6.4 million signing bonus. His dad, Pedro Sr., made the sacrifice, leaving behind a good paying 9-to-5 job and spending about 18 years behind the wheel of a taxi while working at different cab companies in Washington Heights so that he could spend more time with his son, who would chase his baseball dreams as he starred at Horace Mann High School in Riverdale and in the sandlots of the city.
"Yes, I thought about (the dangers) but at least he didn't work at night which is when a lot of those things happen," the younger Alvarez recalled on Monday, an hour and a half before his first appearance as a major leaguer in the Big Apple in front of friends and family in the first of four meaningless games between the Pirates and Mets at Citi Field. "He worked in the day. I knew it wasn't a luxurious job and one day I'd help him out so that he wouldn't have to worry about working and forcing himself.
"Dad sacrificed everything, a good job to be with the family, with us, with my mom. That's why he drove a taxi to be close to us. Everything that my sister and I needed, we had it," said the second overall selection by the Pirates in the 2008 draft -- tops for a Washington Heights product. "(But) we didn't know what vacations were. I didn't know what parks with those roller coasters were. What we did have was love at home. We had a home and food which was what we needed. But he gave it his all for us. My mother sacrificed her whole life, you could say."
As Alvarez Sr. stood outside the Pirates' dugout at Citi Field after chowing on rice, beans and chicken that he brought to the park as a pregame meal, it was all starting to sink in on Monday night as he awaited his son and the Pirates to take the field for batting practice.
Driving cabs and beating out other cabbies for fares for Haven, Bennett and Washington Car Services was perhaps the best decision he could have ever made. In order to help his son get out of Washington Heights, he felt there were no other options.
"As you know, the sport is a bit difficult. You have to dedicate a lot of time and attention. Working for a company, it was going to be very impossible to follow my son to all the places he went to. If I worked for you, you could give me permission for a day but the next day, you wouldn't give it to me. So I made the decision to leave my job that gave me a good salary for my family's livelihood," Alvarez Sr. said.
"I'm proud of doing the job that I did although it was risky enough. I won't tell you there weren't any moments of tension because of things that happen. But I think all the jobs have their ups and downs although some are more dangerous than others but thanks to God you prepare yourself to come out well."