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    From professional baseball to U.S. Army: Salomon Manriquez prepares for new challenge

    From professional baseball to U.S. Army: Salomon Manriquez prepares for new challenge

    Photo By Alun Thomas | Sgt. 1st Class Jared Siple (left), recruiter, Buckeye Recruiting Station, Phoenix West...... read more read more



    Story by Alun Thomas  

    U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion - Phoenix

    GLENDALE, Ariz. – The road seemed endless, the challenges always fierce.

    Year after year, a new team and new location, as Salomon Manriquez fought his way through a 13 year minor league baseball career, taking him to every reach of the United States.

    As a catcher Manriquez, a Venezuelan native, stayed on top of his game, training endlessly, performing to the best of his abilities, in his quest to make the major leagues.

    Eventually he had to retire, having given everything in a career that took him to over 15 teams and the Spanish national team at the World Baseball Classic in 2013.

    At the age of 37, seeking a change in his life and looking for new purpose and direction, Salomon enlisted in the U.S. Army in Jan. 2019.

    Familiar with the concept of change, Salomon has prepared himself and his family for a new adventure, one all of them are eager to begin as he departs for Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Feb. 18.

    Manriquez’s many traverses began in 1982, when he was born in Valencia, Venezuela, enjoying his childhood in the South American environment.

    “I actually grew up in a little area outside Valencia, but I moved to the main city after I signed my first professional baseball contract,” Manriquez said. “There I had access to better facilities to work out and healthier nutrition options.”

    Although the country finds itself in a tumultuous state presently, Manriquez said it was a paradise to grow up in during the 1980’s and 90’s.

    “Growing up in Venezuela was a lot different than it is there now. The country was beautiful, I had a good childhood and I was always happy,” he said. “My parents owned their own business, which was in the engineering field. I have a brother and sister, of which I’m the oldest of. We didn’t always have much, but we were happy and always got by.”

    At an early age Manriquez often thought about his dream job, which would one day become a reality.

    “When I was a kid I always wanted to be a firefighter. But when I was in the first grade, one of my friends said he wanted to be a professional soccer player. I was young and didn’t know you could do that and get paid for it,” Manriquez explained. “I asked my teacher and she said ‘of course you can.’ But I wanted to be a baseball player, even when I was just seven years old.”

    With this goal in mind, Manriquez devoted himself to becoming the best baseball player possible, even though many of those around him had their doubts.

    “Even though I wasn’t very good at first, I pushed myself and worked hard. By the age of 16 I signed my first contract with the Montreal Expos,” Manriquez said. “Even back then I was fighting to prove myself. People didn’t believe that I was going to sign with them. Even when I did, there was people who thought I’d get released quickly. But I lasted 13 years.”

    From that moment on in 1999, Manriquez’s life became a whirlwind, as he spent the next 13 years following a baseball dream, accompanied by his wife Lori, whom he married in 2002, having known each other since elementary school.

    “We were married when I was 20 years old. We first met in elementary school and have been together almost the whole time since we left high school,” he explained. “It’s been fun. She’s my best friend and I couldn’t have done any of this without her.”

    “She knows the grind of the baseball life and has lived it over the last 20 years. My son Kevin was born in 2011 and lived a part of it as well,” he said. “They’ve both been warriors through it all.”

    Manriquez’s career took him all over the U.S., as he pursued his major league ambitions, with some hurdles to overcome along the way.

    “I played for some minor league teams under the Expos and Washington Nationals. Then in 2006 I got signed in a three way trade to the Colorado Rockies and then the Texas Rangers, both on the same day,” Manriquez recalled. “My agent was always looking for a better offer, so I bounced around teams a lot. In 2009 I was with the (New York) Mets organization when the Atlanta Braves said they wanted to sign me. Then they decided to sign someone else and for the first time I was without a job.”

    Manriquez quickly got back on his feet.

    “I resigned with the Mets and went back to Triple-A in 2011. By this time it was becoming a grind, even though it had been a fun ride so far,” Manriquez said. “Unfortunately I never reached my objective of getting to the top, which was playing in the big leagues (Major League Baseball). But I made it to Triple-A.”

    Lori Manriquez agreed that life as a baseball spouse could be grueling, but she was always determined to stand by her husband.

    “It was very hard. We were moving every six months and having to pack everything up,” Lori said. “We moved all around the country and the teams wouldn’t help with the moves, we did it all ourselves.”

    “We've been together the whole time, through everything he’s done. I’m happy to be part of his life. He’s an excellent husband and excellent father,” she continued.

    Manriquez retired in 2013 as part of the Camden Riversharks, amassing over 1050 games in his career as a catcher, with 88 home runs and 439 runs batted in. After years spent on the East Coast playing for teams such as the Binghamton Mets and Buffalo Bisons, he settled in Surprise, Arizona, upon retirement, as a coach for the Arizona League Rangers.

    While coaching in Surprise, Manriquez formed a friendship with Sgt. 1st Class Jared Siple, recruiter, Buckeye Recruiting Station, Phoenix West Recruiting Company, with both men’s sons in the same swimming team.

    “We met each other at Surprise Recreation Center where our sons swam together. I’d been coaching for the Texas Rangers in Surprise, where they have a minor league team. So we started talking and both our wives became friends too,” Manriquez said. “I started asking questions about the Army, but I don’t think he (Siple) thought I was actually serious about it, until one day I told him I was going to join the Army.”

    Siple was surprised to hear this from Manriquez, not expecting him to pursue the Army as a career choice.

    “About seven months ago he first expressed his desire to join the Army. When he first said that I took a step back. When you consider what he’s achieved and being a baseball player of his stature, I wasn’t expecting that,” Siple said. “But I told him I’d have to check into the age waiver and he accepted that. He did everything I asked of him and he told me ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’ That’s become one of my favorite sayings.”

    Manriquez said his wife was also initially surprised by his decision to enlist.

    “I don’t think my wife believed me when I said I was going to join. She told me to stop messing around and wasting my time. When she realized I was serious, we talked about it and she agreed it was a great opportunity for me to grow and learn something different,” he said. “I think all the skills I learned in baseball are similar to what you apply in the Army, leadership, physical and mental toughness, resilience … all things required of a professional athlete.”

    Manriquez praised Siple for his assistance during the recruiting process, making sure he and his family were fully aware of the changes ahead.

    “He was very patient with me … I asked a million questions. Sometimes we agreed on things, other times we disagreed,” he continued. “I appreciate his help through the entire process because at this point in my life I want to be 100 percent sure this is what I want to do. The support I have from him and his family is something I will always be grateful for.”

    Lori said she was hesitant at first also, but supports her husband’s decision to enlist.

    “I think it’s exciting to be doing something new in our lives. I think it’s going to be hard at first, but I’m excited for us to be part of the Army family. Moving every three years will be a lot easier than baseball was,” she explained. “I’m a little bit scared, but I’m excited at the same time. It’s a lot to take in, a much different way of life, but I know we will adapt.”

    Siple has little doubts that Manriquez will succeed in the Army and said he is the exact kind of person the Army needs in its ranks.

    “He is the type of person the Army needs in every field. He has a persona that people naturally gravitate to and want to follow. Whatever he does, whatever rank he is, he will succeed,” Siple said. “When we work out, he’s the one pushing me. I feel like I can deadlift a thousand pounds. That’s because he’s by my side and he has one of the best attitudes I’ve ever known. I can’t wait to hear his Army stories and see his progression.”

    Manriquez is eager to begin his Army career, having chosen a military occupational specialty of 15U, helicopter repairer.

    “After that I might possibly pursue being a pilot, depending on my age and requirements of course. To me that’s an exciting possibility,” he said. “I want to do the things I’ve always dreamed of. At this point in my life it’s now or never.”

    Manriquez is determined to make the Army a career and push himself as far as possible, with no limits in sight.

    “I signed a six-year contract, but I’m definitely looking at making this a career, going the full 20 years. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but absolutely I’d like to do this as a career and work my hardest at it,” Manriquez added. “I’m excited to ship out in a few days … I just want to make sure everything is taken care of for my family. I know I won’t be able to talk to them much for the next 10 weeks.”

    Reflecting on his life to this point, Manriquez said he’s happy with all he’s achieved, but knows the next chapter is far from over.

    “So far my life has been a fun ride. Having the opportunity to grow up in a different country, not knowing any English when I came to the U.S., getting my Green Card and then playing professional baseball for 13 years … I couldn’t ask for more,” he said.

    “Now I’m joining the Army and putting some excitement back into my life. The best is yet to come,” Manriquez smiled.



    Date Taken: 02.14.2020
    Date Posted: 02.14.2020 16:40
    Story ID: 363247
    Location: GLENDALE, AZ, US 
    Hometown: VALENCIA, VE

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