Dominican-American Pitcher Aiming for State Senate

El Diario/La Prensa‘s José Acosta profiles Dominican-American Manny Tavárez, semi-professional baseball pitcher turned candidate for the New York State Senate. With his athletic background, Tavárez pushes for sports and education as means for getting young people off the streets. He faces District 33 incumbent Gustavo Rivera in November. The article is translated below from Spanish.

Former pitcher Manny Tavárez reached the semi-pros but a shoulder injury ended his career. (Photo via El Diario/La Prensa)

When Manny Tavárez was a semi-professional baseball pitcher, he threw the ball at 91 miles an hour. Now that he’s a politician, many people believe he’ll have to pitch at more than 100 miles an hour in order to beat Gustavo Rivera in the primary elections this September. If he wins, Tavárez will be the first Dominican in the Bronx to join the State Senate.

“I’m campaigning out in the streets,” said Tavárez, 33. “I’m knocking on doors and visiting religious centers of all denominations, from Evangelical Christianity to Catholicism to Islam, and so far I’ve received a very positive response.”

Because of his Christian faith and his opposition to gay marriage, Tavárez has won the support of the State Senator and evangelical minister Rubén Díaz, but not the backing of Bronx Borough President Rubén Diaz Jr., who balanced out the competition by endorsing Gustavo Rivera, the incumbent of District 33.

Tavárez was born in Rochester, NY, to Dominican parents, and grew up in the South Bronx. Upon graduating from high school in 1998, his excellent performance in baseball won him a scholarship to Barry University in Miami, FL, where he continued to play and earned a degree in sports administration in 2004.

He became a left-handed semi-professional pitcher, but a shoulder injury ended his hopes of reaching the big leagues.

“After I graduated, I founded a sports representation firm in 2004, and I obtained contracts for many Major League baseball players,” he said.

Tavárez, who is running on the Democratic ballot, explained why he chose to become a politician: “Our young men are lost, and we need to bring programs into the community in order to help them,” he said. “That’s what I want to do when I join the Senate.”

He continued: “Sports saved my life; when I was on the playing field, I wasn’t in the streets. My plan is to open various sports academies in the Bronx that include baseball, boxing, and basketball, so we can keep young men off the streets.”

Tavárez added that he is also focused on education.

“Some 35 percent of young people don’t finish high school,” he said. “I want to open training centers that teach the youth trades such as carpentry, plumbing, etc., so that if they can’t go to college, they will have a way to support their families.”

Tavárez is married and has no children. He got started in politics by working on the campaigns of Héctor Ramírez when he was running for State Assembly in 2009, and for Fernando Cabrera when he was running for City Council in 2010.

State Senator Gustavo Rivera, who said he doesn’t know Távarez very well, has not been resting on his laurels. Rather, Rivera has been trying to drum up votes, even though many people think he will win the primary on the strength of the projects he has developed in his district, especially the health initiative, El Bronx CAN (Change Attitudes Now), which benefited hundreds of residents through educational programs designed to improve eating and exercise habits.

“I’ve been talking with voters every day about the work I’ve done and I’m asking them again for their support, and the response has been very good,” Rivera said.

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