The Interview: Osuna talks debut, family, food

Roberto Osuna (Darren Calabrese/CP)

In every edition of Sportsnet Magazine, Kristina Rutherford talks to the biggest stars in sports. This interview originally appeared in Sportsnet Magazine.

Let’s talk about your MLB debut. You came out of the bullpen with the bases loaded, one out, A-Rod at the plate. That’s terrifying.

>I was like, “Oh my God, this is Yankee Stadium. Alex Rodriguez at the plate. What am I doing here?” [Laughs] I’m gonna be honest, I was a little bit nervous.

Then you struck him out…

>Very special. It’s Alex Rodriguez, a superstar, a guy who everybody wants to face.

CLOSER TO HOME: Watch Stephen Brunt’s TV special Roberto Osuna: Sinaloa to the Show on Sportsnet, April 2 at 4 p.m., following Red Sox vs. Blue Jays in Montreal

And you didn’t even expect to play with the Jays this season, right?

>Yeah, you’re right. I was going to start in Dunedin. This is what they told me the second day of spring training: “Osuna, you’re not gonna pitch too much here, but we’ve got a couple of innings for you before you go down.” Two weeks later, they say, “Osuna, all right, you’ve got a little bit of a chance to make the team. Don’t get crazy, take it easy. Keep doing what you’ve been doing, and we’ll see what happens.”

What was the conversation like when you found out you made it?

>I came into Johnny Gibbons’s office, and Alex Anthopoulos and all the guys were there. The first few minutes, [Gibbons] was like, “Osuna, you did a great job, you’ve been working so good and you’re the youngest guy, you got a lot of talent, but I’m gonna tell you right now…” And I was like, “Wow, wow, wow, whoa, whoa, whoa, what’s gonna happen?” Then Gibbons says, “Well, don’t get mad at me.” And I was like, “Oh no.” And then he says, “Congratulations, you made the team.” I almost cried.

How did your family react?

>My mom was crying and she told me, “I knew it. I knew you were going to make the team.” The next day, I sent them the flight to New York. They were there for my debut.

Your dad must have been really proud.

>He’s always been my pitching coach; we started pitching when I was seven years old. When I had my Tommy John [surgery, in 2013], I cried with him a lot because we felt so frustrated—we’d been working so hard. But we kept working. When they told me I made the team, he was like, “I’m so proud of you. You never gave up.” Part of this is for him, too.

He has the same first name as you. Does that get confusing at home?

>A little bit, yeah. When my mom calls us: “Roberto!” we both look at her. “No, no, not you, you!” But sometimes she calls me Robertito, like “little Robert.”

That’s a good nickname. What was your childhood like back in Mexico?

>My big thing was to play in the big leagues. I left school when I was 12 and I focused on baseball 100 percent. Everybody was telling me, “Who guarantees you that you’re gonna play in the big leagues?” And I was like, “I will work for it.”

And once you left school, you started working?

>Yeah, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. The bus picked us up at 5. We worked from 5:30 a.m. until 4 or 5 p.m., picking tomatoes, jalapenos, all that. We had an hour for lunch. It was a really hard time because my brother was little, so my dad and I were working all the time to try to bring home food. But I learned a lot and I’m glad for that time.

Aside from family, what do you miss most about home?

>The food. I don’t really like sushi, and there’s a lot of sushi here. I asked a couple of guys here, “Hey, is there any Mexican place here?” They were like, “Chipotle, Taco Bell…” I said no, no, no—that’s not Mexican. So I went to the supermarket and bought a couple of things to cook at home. I’m really good at cooking, so I’m gonna make tacos on our next day off.

When did you learn English?

>In 2011. It was really hard for me because when I came here, I didn’t know nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I started from the bottom. The first day I was in Dunedin, [Dane] Johnson [the bullpen coach] asked me, “What’s your name?” And I responded, “OK.” I didn’t know what was going on. And he said, “No, no, no. ¿Que es su nombre?” I was like, “Oh, OK: Roberto!” Then I went to English class and put all my attention on it.

What’s your favourite pitch?

>I think I’ve got a good fastball. My second-best pitch is my changeup, I think. And then a slider.

How do you like carrying that pink suitcase they make rookie pitchers drag to and from the bullpen?

>Man, I’m in the big leagues: I got it. It’s fun, because all the fans look at you and say, “Hey, Hello Kitty!”

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