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Remembering 2012: Polanco The American

Copy of Polanco, Enohel 3

It may be the slowest time of the year for Revolution news, but we still have plenty to post here in case you missed it during the season.  As we did last year, we’ll be posting a different column at the beginning of each week from the past season of the York Revolutionary Times in case you missed an issue at the ballpark. 

Enohel Polanco’s “First” Fourth of July
Now a United States citizen, this holiday will be a little different for the Revs coach

By Paul Braverman

In 14 seasons of minor league baseball, Enohel Polanco played for 20 different teams in the United States, and one in Canada.  In all, he suited up for teams located in 17 different U.S. States.  Each season, the native of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic was treated to a 4th of July fireworks show in a ballpark somewhere.  But as the colors explode over Sovereign Bank Stadium on this July 4, the Revolution bench coach will no longer be a guest.

Five years after moving to New Brunswick, New Jersey, Polanco became a naturalized United States Citizen in a ceremony on June 19, something he had been aiming for since he first took up permanent residence in the country.

“My wife and my step children are all citizens, and this was important to me.  There are so many opportunities that come with being a citizen,” said Polanco.

Indeed, it’s humbling to realize how Americans take some of those opportunities for granted when you talk to a recently naturalized U.S. Citizen.

“You can speak freely here, you have freedom to be yourself, it’s great,” said Polanco, reminding us of a simple freedom, but obviously the one which sticks out most to newcomers.  But for Enohel, the reasons have much more to do with family, and far less with politics.

“Now that I am a citizen, it’s much easier to get a tourist Visa or a green card for my mother, and my brothers who live in the Dominican to come visit us.  Now we can spend more time together and it’s great.”

Hopefully that family time comes soon in the offseason for Polanco, his wife Lizette Delgado Polanco and their step-children Brianna Earle, Joshua Rodriguez and Justin Rodriguez.  Because it’s been a tiring and whirlwind month for the Revs coach.  After formally applying for citizenship in March, the government sent Polanco a letter detailing what had to be done first in the process.

“I needed to go to New Jersey and get my fingerprints done, and some other things for a background check.  They needed to know I haven’t been in jail, and don’t have any drug things or anything like that.  You know I was okay there,” laughs Polanco.

Well Enohel certainly had nothing to worry about, the problem was the trip was scheduled for the morning of April 26, the day of the Revolution’s season opener in Sugar Land, Texas.  So Polanco skipped the team flight two days prior, and caught his own flight to Texas that day, arriving at the ballpark in the third inning.

Those first steps laid the groundwork for his formal interview, and the test he had to pass to make his citizenship official.  If you’re looking for a quick refresher on American civics, just ask Enohel Polanco.  It’s as fresh in his mind as anyone’s.

“When I first applied, they gave me information about the United States, things that would be on the test, things they want people to know about the country.  They even gave me CDs with it, so I could listen to everything while I drive,” said Polanco.

“But ever since I moved to New Jersey five years ago, I was thinking about the day I would become a citizen, it was very important to me.  So I read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies that would help me learn about the United States,” he continued.

Indeed, Polanco’s efforts to learn about his adopted country stretch back much further than March, and his accomplishment is well earned.  Even though he first began playing in the U.S. in 1995, he really had to make a concentrated effort to get up to speed.

“Even though a lot of us (from Latin America) are here in the U.S., when we’re here we have to focus on the game, and not much else.  The last five years, I’ve focused on this,” said Polanco.

Many of the questions are basic things; where is the U.S. Capitol, who was the first President, why does the American Flag have 50 stars and 13 stripes, and who is the Governor of your state?

But the vetting of a new citizen does go deeper, and let’s just say “it takes a village” when it comes to the Revolution family.

“One day we’re sitting in here, and I asked him who becomes President if the President and Vice President are unable to serve,” said Revs Pitching Coach Mark Mason.  He didn’t know, so I told him to remember it’s Speaker of the House, because that’s something they might ask.”

“Then in the interview, the very first question they ask me is who is President if the President and Vice President die.  I shouldn’t have, but I put my arm over my mouth and laugh,” demonstrates Polanco.  “They were wondering why I was laughing, but hey, I answered correctly so we just moved on.  I guess they thought I thought it was an easy one since I laughed.”

It’s usually not hard to catch Enohel Polanco laughing and smiling.  But the smile on the perpetually bubbly Polanco is even more noticeable lately.  In the Revolution clubhouse between games of a doubleheader on June 19, having become a U.S. Citizen just hours earlier, he walked around the clubhouse exclaiming “it was today, I am an American.” He was grinning ear to ear, his voice tingeing with a mixture of great pride and relief.  He had to again rush back from New Jersey to join a game in progress, so Player-Coach Liu Rodriguez subbed for Polanco as third base coach for the beginning of game one of the twinbill.

“We put up six runs in an inning with Liu over there, and 17 for the game, so I told Polo he was fired as soon as he got back,” joked Mason after York’s 17-2 win over Sugar Land. Luckily for Polanco, he also delivered a win back at his third base coaching post, as the Revs took the night cap 6-0 from the Skeeters as well.

The pressure doesn’t end there for Enohel, as it’s an especially interesting time to become a new U.S. Citizen, with a Presidential election looming in the fall.  When Polanco was naturalized, he also registered to vote.

“I could never vote in the Dominican, because I was always in America during the elections.  Even in May, they voted for President, but I was here.  I don’t know who I am going to vote for in the election.”

When asked if he was just being bi-partisan or politically correct, Polanco answered in the negative.

“I really don’t know yet, I’m not really political, but I have to see and make some decisions.  But I will vote.”

It sure sounds like after all the work Polanco put in to become an American, he won’t just let his civic duties slide now that the hard part is over.  On this 4th of July weekend, in an ironic way, the holiday may mean the most to the man who’s been an American for just three weeks, opposed to those of us who’ve been one since birth.

“It is emotional for me.  In the interview, they want to see how much English you speak, how much you understand, what you do for work.  They asked me about how much I’ve been in the United States, how my career went.  And they said, ‘you know what, you do pretty well.’  That made me feel good.”

If that isn’t validation enough, when the fireworks rise high above Sovereign Bank Stadium, in Polanco’s mind that’s when it will be truly official.

“I feel like this is finally my July 4th.  I’ve always enjoyed it because it’s a great party, watching people celebrate freedom.  But now I am feeling that too.”

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