The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

From Venezuela to Lincoln Park, migrant teens find comradery and belonging through high school baseball

Nick Palazzolo
The Lincoln Park Lions high school baseball team huddles before a game on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, in Chicago.

In a Chicago high school where language barriers are as thick as concrete, three Venezuelan students have found a universal language in baseball. Their shared passion for the sport transcends linguistic boundaries, uniting them as star players for the Lincoln Park Lions. In their journey, laughter and joy speak louder than any words. 

Starting this school year, the Lincoln Park Lions varsity baseball team has added three migrant players from Venezuela: brothers Franklin and Emanuel Delgado and their cousin Josue Medialsea. 

It hasn’t been easy for the Delgado brothers or Medialsea. They are currently living in a shelter on Chicago’s North Side. Even though there is uncertainty off the field, they have found a sense of belonging on the field. 

“I didn’t know kind of how they would accept him, but they came in, especially Franklin, the team really kind of took him in under their wings,” Lincoln Park head coach Jake Van Dyke said. 

The main priority for the North Side trio is communication. While none of them speak English, they all speak joy and laughter. While most guys on the team can’t understand the trio’s spoken Spanish – they are all trying their best to learn) – it is easy to love the game. 

“I think just the vibe that we have, as a group of guys, being able to see these guys be around these guys,” Van Dyke said. “They care for each other. They’re always picking each other up. They are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. They’re always celebrating each other, win or lose.” 

What started as a big question mark for Frankie and his family has become a safe haven. After explaining where he and his family lived in “Spanglish,” he said, “We just like to have fun.” 

Another critical factor in the success story is assistant coach Shaan Donohue. The first base coach and team translator says he feels so much joy having the young men around, not only because of the joy and passion they play with but also because of the effort and love shown by the trio’s English-speaking teammates. 

“You know, for them to put the effort in, to have them be a part of the team, to make them feel like part of the team, to make these guys feel like a part of the community here, that’s been one of the coolest things,” said Donohue. 

Donohue came by the role naturally and took it in stride. The Chicago native grew up in a Hispanic household and attended a Spanish immersion school until the age of six. While in school, English didn’t exist; it was all Spanish, a lesson from his parents he understood then but is even more thankful for now. 

“It’s been gratifying for me because I’ve gotten to know those guys at a different level,” Donohue said. “For them, part of it is just being able to speak their language. There’s a level of comfort with that, and I feel like there’s trust or something that they feel like they can talk to me about, stuff that’s not just baseball,” said Donohue. 

From pregame shenanigans to on-field antics, it’s clear that the Delgado brothers and Medialsea just love baseball. Screaming and yelling on mundane baseball plays like a sacrifice fly or strikeout creates an overwhelming sense of passion and excitement. 

“We just have fun. It’s a game; why shouldn’t we have fun?” said Frankie Delgado. 

Watching the trio scream and yell from the dugout, it’s also clear that the passion isn’t just coming from them. It is an injection of life into a team that, if you looked at their record, you couldn’t imagine them having much fun. 

“You know, they fit in perfectly, and they’re funny, so they fit perfectly,” senior catcher Harrison Rodgers said. “You know, after games, they’re all hyped up. In the pregame, in the locker rooms with them. It’s a little insane, but that’s funny.”

Watching the trio from Venezuela do all the everyday baseball things, like communicating outs in the outfield and warming up in pregame, adds excitement and flair to all of it. For Frankie, there’s often Spanish music blasting while he takes warm-up swings, and for his brother Emanuel, don’t be surprised if you see a little salsa dance while telling his teammates how many outs there are in the outfield. 

The little things like these stick out the most to their coaches and teammates. 

“It’s just a cultural difference, which gave our team a little more life,” Donohue said. “Moments where, maybe in previous years, guys were hanging their heads or whatever, these guys have so much joy to play baseball, just to be out here and be able to mix it up, run the bases, and do all the stuff that you get to do that, that joy has just permeated the team.”

The transition isn’t easy, nor should it be. Three players who love baseball but live in a country for the first time and also in a migrant shelter. 

“These guys have experienced stuff coming over here that none could even imagine,” Donohue said.

On Wednesday, Lincoln Park classes get out at 2:15 p.m. on Wednesdays. The team trickles onto the field for their 4:30 p.m. game. Franklin always brings a school lunch tray loaded with food with him. He always politely asks Coach Van Dyke if he can eat in the dugout before they start warming up. Van Dyke always says yes, because he’s not sure what kind of food he gets provided in the shelter to eat. 

Even though they have had experiences nobody can imagine, teammates still find it fun to try and learn from them. 

“It’s also fun to learn their culture and how they play,” senior pitcher Enzo Basil said. “He’s (Frankie) very passionate; he cares a lot about this team, and that’s what I like in a teammate.”

Lincoln Park has had to work to get the trio to play a more organized brand of baseball, but it’s also been a fun challenge. 

“There’s been some challenges in getting them to play a little more Americanized baseball,” Donohue said. “But some of that is we can learn a little bit of Latin flair, for lack of a better term. You see it in the big leagues. You see it, guys, you know, the passion that these guys from Venezuela have; it’s just different. They play with a different type of energy. And we’ve picked up on it.” 

Through the universal language of baseball, Frankie, Emanuel and Josue embody the resilience and hope of those who dare to dream across borders for better opportunities.

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