Relaying It Home

By JOE McFARLAND

Making the transition from high school to college can be tough on any teenager.

Deciding to transfer to another college just a few months into that transition can be even tougher.

Yet, Alejandro Cazorla-Granados isn’t phased at packing his bags and finding a new home away from home as he has collected more Frequent Flyer Miles in his 19 years on this planet than most people three times his age have done.

After spending the fall at Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri, the Dawgs Academy grad made the decision to transfer to Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City, Louisiana, where he had originally committed to in 2019.

It’s all in the name of chasing his baseball dreams.

“I started thinking about making the change about midway through the semester,” Cazorla-Granados told Alberta Dugout Stories via Twitter message. “It was definitely something I had to think about for a while but I’m confident I made the right choice.”

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Born in Caracos, Venezuela, Cazorla-Granados spent the first few years of his childhood in the town of San Pedro Del Rio.

Unfortunately, the ongoing socioeconomic and political crisis in the country made it difficult for him to harness his athletic aspirations, despite he and his family loving sports.

“With everything going on, there was never really a time where I could get involved in sports or school activities or things like that,” he said on Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “Things are a little different out there.”

His family eventually decided to look for a better life in Canada, finding a home in White Rock, B.C.

Taken aback by the different culture and sense of community, the future outfielder found a sign-up sheet for baseball in his new home.

“I practised with my dad every day starting when I was six- or seven-years-old,” he recalled. “That’s probably when I first started learning the meaning of work ethic.”

The young athlete saw it as a positive way to stay connected to his home country without having to pay attention to the reasons they fled.

“As I grew up, I started watching more and more MLB and guys like Miguel Cabrera, Omar Vizquel and, nowadays, Ronald Acuna, Jr.,” he said. “It’s kind of my way to stay in touch with my home roots and that’s how I fell in love with baseball.”

CHANGING DIRECTIONS

As Cazorla-Granados grew up, the opportunities to play higher-level baseball mounted.

In junior high, he started making the trek across the border to Seattle for training opportunities with friend and teammate Matt Wilkinson.

The thought of heading west never crossed their minds until a phone call from Dawgs Academy coach Allen Cox.

“I was in ninth grade and I remember getting the call around lunch,” Cazorla-Granados said. “I had actually been thinking about going out to Vauxhall because of a couple guys I knew who were already out there.”

Having not paid a lot of attention to what the baseball scene was like in Western Canada, the pair received a few links and videos to check out the Dawgs’ facilities and programs.

“I was like – “This can’t be real. This is in Canada?’” Cazorla-Granados laughed. “So I showed Matt and he said it looked pretty legit.”

Before long, he met with coaches Tyler Hollick, Val Helldobler and Bretton Gouthro in Langley.

“Next thing I know, I’m out here for four years,” he continued. “It all happened real quick.”

DAWG GETS HIS DAY

Unlike when he first moved to Canada, Cazorla-Granados says the adjustment to his new home in Okotoks wasn’t difficult at all.

“Out in White Rock, it’s definitely a different lifestyle for sure, but I never really felt at home there,” he said. “The moment I came to Okotoks, everything changed, as not only was I going to school and seeing buddies there every day, but they also happened to be my teammates.”

They formed a brotherhood of sorts, which became the dominant Dawgs 18U Black team that won several tournaments and championships in 2018 and 2019.

The Tournament-12 product was also given the opportunity to spend time with the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Okotoks Dawgs to travel and practice during their championship run.

He viewed it as a “red-shirt kind of thing,” getting to pick the brains of college-level players like Tristan Peters, Richard Mascarenas and Jacob Melton.

“The chemistry within the locker room that year was otherworldly,” Cazorla-Granados said. “I had never seen anything like that, especially being around so many collegiate guys. I understood that year what it really took to become a full-time ball player.”

DREAMING OF A BETTER LIFE

Like many of his fellow teammates, Cazorla-Granados’ plans for post-secondary baseball took a backseat during the global pandemic in 2020.

He continued to train in hopes he would get the chance to play again in 2021, which he did while also fulfilling a dream of becoming an everyday player with the Dawgs.

The speedster didn’t disappoint as he suited up for Dawgs Black during the abbreviated season, hitting .359 with 25 runs batted in and 32 stolen bases in 33 games.

“It almost felt like it wasn’t real,” he admitted about getting back onto the field after such a long layoff.

Cazorla-Granados used his time to get himself ready for the spring college season, which he will get to do alongside fellow Dawgs grads Connor Crowson and Justin Breen.

“I have definitely seen my fair share of the US the past few months,” he smiled. “But after being shut down on and off for about a year and a half, I’m just super grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given.”

While he doesn’t know when he will be heading back to his home country, it is still on his mind every time he steps onto the field.

“At the end of the day, it’s an opportunity for me to get a better life,” Cazorla-Granados said. “I’m better off than I would have been in Venezuela, as I have an opportunity to go to school, get an education and chase this dream.”

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