Growing up in Pittsburgh PA in a working class family I was not much different that my friends and our neighbors. I attended our local high school, played some baseball and softball, but never had the "right stuff" to be a standout. One March afternoon I attended one of the dreaded "Assemblies" that focused on a student exchange program being introduced in our area. For some reason I mentioned the program to my parents over dinner, and my Dad, never a man to be generous, told me that I could pursue this, assuming it was not too expensive.
Fast forward to May 1961 and I am all of 16 years of age, standing with my family at the Pittsburgh airport, waiting for an over 24 hour flight from there to Guayaquil, Ecuador, the coastal town near Peru and south of the Equator. I was the only one from my high school to volunteer and we scraped the three hundred dollars together for my flight and new clothing allowances. Tired and hot, I stood with our little exchange student group and met my new family, only one of whom spoke English. My Spanish, like their English was non-existent, so we got along with hand signals.
We were a small group, and none of us had been outside the US before. A few spoke a little Spanish. We scattered to families within the region, and got together for rides on the Guayas River (shown here) and other events. Many of us learned Spanish, passable that is, during our time there.
My new family asked me rapid fire questions, and I must have blurted out "baseball" since the Pirates had won the World Series in October 1960, a fact that made me proud. I might have embellished a little.
My 16 year-old adopted "brother," whom we called Pincho, (shown on our balcony) misinterpreted my comments, and told all his friends that I was a member of the Pirates team! Off I went to display my talents for the a semi-pro team of Guayaquil at the city stadium. I had to borrow a glove, and being left-handed, that was hard to do.
We arrived at the baseball park, the stadium was half full, for some reason, and I threw perhaps the best ten pitches that I had ever thrown in my life, splitting the plate and even managing a slider and a sinker in the process. Cheers went up. My arm was hurting, and through an interpreter I told the team that my contract did not allow me to do much more than I had.
So my "major league career," short and fictional as it was, was started and finished the same day in 1961! I am sure there are Ecuadorians who read about the mysterious kid from the Estados Unidos who snuck away from his duties as a pitcher with the world champions to throw strikes in Guayaquil!