This Independence Day will be special for Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta.
It will be his first since he obtained his U.S. citizenship.
“I feel really proud of myself for what I went through to get my papers,” Peralta says.
It’s been quite a journey for the 30-year-old Venezuelan. He bounced between the minors, majors and independent leagues before getting a chance with the D-backs. The story is well documented around the watercooler.
A young Peralta dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. He saw men in the “bigs” signing autographs, taking pictures with fans and smacking home runs—all things he yearned to do.
But his first round in the MLB didn’t go well. He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent on September 26, 2004. Then a pitcher, Peralta was released five years later.
When other athletes were starting the 2011 season, Peralta was greeting customers at McDonald’s. He used the money to commute between Florida and Harlingen, Texas, where he played indie ball.
A Diamondbacks scout saw him play in a game for Wichita, Kansas, in 2012. On July 3, 2013, he inked a deal with the D-backs as a free agent.
“It was tough,” Peralta says in a 2017 interview with The Entertainer! Magazine. “It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t hard. It was both ways.
“The toughest part was having to leave my country to come here, to a new situation. I had to make a lot of phone calls. I didn’t have an agent. I had to do everything myself. It was hard. I used to be a pitcher.
“I was trying to become an outfielder, on an independent team. But they didn’t know me. I didn’t have any numbers, and I wasn’t a hitter on a Major League team. It was hard to get an opportunity.”
But someone did: Eddie Dennis, the manager of the WhiteWings.
“He gave me the opportunity and I told him that that was all I wanted,” Peralta says. “I wanted the opportunity to show everything I can do. I started playing really well, putting up good numbers and building my way up.
“I had to go through the hard times to get to where I am now. I went from sleeping on air mattresses during the season to here. It was tough, but it was an experience and I learned from that.”
Since joining the Arizona Diamondbacks, Peralta has become a fan favorite. He amiably signs autographs and takes photos with fans—despite a few stints on the DL.
Through all those years, he heard The Star-Spangled Banner, wondering if that song would be special to him as well. He began considering the process before his wife, Jordan, gave birth to their daughter, Sofia, in 2017.
Obtaining U.S. citizenship isn’t easy. Applicants file USCIS forms, get fingerprinted, attend a citizenship interview and an oath ceremony, if they pass.
“It was a long process. I thought it was easy, but you have to study 100 questions and take a lot of practice tests.
“My wife studied with me and helped me with the answers. She was telling me about the history. Every night, we studied and I was reading every night.”
His worst fear was getting a strict immigration officer.
“I was just hoping to be with somebody who was a nice person,” Peralta says. “I got lucky. She was really nice. We were talking and everything. We talked about baseball and she made me feel comfortable.”
The immigration official asked Peralta the required questions: he nailed them.
“I was ready for it,” he says with a laugh. “They were really hard ones, though, about World War II and everything. It was really intense in that moment.”
When Peralta finished, he met Jordan in the lobby.
“I gave her the sad face,” he says mischievously. “She says, ‘You have to be kidding me.’ When I told her I passed, she was mad.”
The first thing he did after the test? Let all the information slip out of his brain. Subsequently, he joined about 100 others for his naturalization ceremony, an event his Venezuelan parents attended.
“It was really nice,” he says with a wide grin. “I was feeling really happy. It was a special moment for me because my mom and dad were there, too. I took them to the ceremony.
“I’m here and I’m going to stay. The thing is, this country gave me an opportunity to do what I love to do—play baseball—and be with the woman I love.”