Every field is a field of dreams, say two international-born Oklahoma City RedHawks

Playing professional baseball in the United States has provided opportunities for many who were not born in the country.
BY BRYAN PAINTER bpainter@opubco.com Published: July 4, 2011
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With that he has risen to the RedHawks, Triple-A affiliate of the Astros. Last season with the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks, he earned Texas League All-Star honors.

He's 26 years old now and the answer to that question, asked first by the scout and repeated by his mother, would still get the same answer.

“Baseball changed my life,” he said.

“I've learned a lot of things because of baseball, a different language, different cultures and how to be a professional.

“Baseball is my career and I will keep learning about it,” he said.

Playing in the U.S.

Allen Rowin, coordinator of player development for the Astros, said all non-U.S. born players, who have not established residency in the U.S. or become U.S. citizens must have a P-1 visa.

“Let's say we got them a one-year visa, at the end of the one year, the club is supposed to buy them a flight back to their home, wherever that is,” Rowin explained.

A lot of players, especially those in the high levels who have been in the U.S. for a while, will apply for a tourist visa, he said.

If granted, that allows them to stay in the country as a tourist at the end of their work visa.

With the P-1 visa, individual athletes may be admitted for up to five years initially.

One extension of up to five years is allowed.

There are no travel restrictions on a P-1 visa, allowing the athlete to enter and leave the country as they please, according to the American Visa Bureau.

“Let's say you're going to bring a guy over here and you have his rights for five years, you can get him a five-year visa,” Rowin said.

View from the dugout

From 2007-10, Rowland-Smith pitched in 115 games for the Mariners. Then he signed as a free agent with the Astros.

But to narrow his experience so far down to one moment, he goes back to that dugout experience in Anaheim. It left a weird sort of feeling in Rowland-Smith's stomach.

As a child, he grew up “having an infatuation” with American sports, particularly baseball.

Now he's had his name on a major league uniform, his own baseball cards, and when he took the mound in Yankee Stadium, the late Bob Sheppard — who had introduced Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle — was introducing “Ryan Rowland-Smith.”

“I'm lucky to be able to play baseball and play at every level and go to towns that I never would be able to go as a tourist, like these minor league towns and cities,” Rowland-Smith said.

“It's been a great ride so far,” he said.


If you go

Fourth of July baseball

Who: Iowa Cubs vs. Oklahoma City RedHawks

When: 7:05 p.m. Monday

Where: RedHawks Field at Bricktown

Festivities: Fourth of July fireworks spectacular after the game.

Information: Call 218-1000 or go to www.okcredhawks.com

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