December 4, 2021
(BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS) — Growing up, professional baseball player Fred Villarreal was rarely pitching strikes. It wasn’t until he realized how much his family was dedicating to him playing the sport that he truly devoted himself to the game.
After traveling to a tournament where Villarreal wasn’t played by the coaches at all, he saw his mother crying on the car ride home.
“You’re 12 years old, you’re like, ‘Oh, what’s wrong?'” he said. “My father just told me straight up ‘We had to pawn your mom’s ring in order for you to play here.’ That hit me in the heart as a 12 year old kid, I feel like that’s what sparked it all for me.”
Their sacrifices paid off. After excelling on both his high school and travel teams, Villarreal was offered a contract by the Tampa Bay Rays. He turned down the offer to play college baseball first with the University of Houston and was then drafted by the Seattle Mariners.
Villarreal grew up in Brownsville, Texas, a community on the Mexican border known for its high poverty levels. After Villarreal was able to receive a baseball scholarship to pay for his college education, he wanted to help make sure other kids who grow up in this area are able to do the same. He spends his afternoons during the off season back in his hometown training and coaching kids of all ages.
“I was fortunate enough to have the travel ball team pay for all my expenses and everything, otherwise there’s no way I could have afforded it,” he said. “So now what I’m trying to do as a professional is help all these kids be as good as they can be.”
Being from this border town has played a huge role in Villarreal’s life.
“The culture means a lot to me,’ he said, “and that’s why when I’m out there playing, I just think about Brownsville. I’m so proud to be from where I’m from.”