It was one of those moments when everything slows down and life becomes a little clearer.
Ryan Rowland-Smith was sitting in the visitor's dugout at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.
Rowland-Smith, a Seattle Mariners pitcher at the time, raised his head.
The Australian was staring up at what it meant to him to be playing Major League Baseball in the United States.
The 28-year-old left-handed pitcher is now with the Oklahoma City RedHawks, who return home Monday to start a seven-game homestand with a Fourth of July matchup against the Iowa Cubs at RedHawks Field at Bricktown.
“I'll never forget,” Rowland-
The RedHawks' roster includes 10 foreign-born players and one player born in Puerto Rico. Rowland-Smith from Sydney, Australia, and fellow pitcher Douglas Arguello, of Managua, Nicaragua, recently talked about the opportunities that playing professional baseball in the U.S. has provided them.
Teen from Nicaragua
Arguello was only 17 years old when the Houston Astros signed him as a non-drafted free agent Dec. 10, 2001.
Other than a stopover or two in airports, he'd never been to the U.S. before becoming a professional baseball player. Yet it was his goal.
For the longest time, his mother stressed the importance of focusing on school.
Then one day a baseball scout saw him and asked the lanky lefty if he'd like to play pro ball some day. Arguello answered “Yes” and started to work even harder. His mother noticed and asked the same question the scout had tossed at him. She received the same answer, “Yes,” he wanted to play pro ball some day.
With that, the mother gave Arguello her support.
“That's why I'm here because she's one of the ones supporting me all this time,” he said.
“My family has been supporting me all this time and reminding me what my goals are, and that's always in front of me.
“I give my best every time.”
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.