Jimenez be­comes Amer­i­can cit­i­zen

‘It’s an amaz­ing feel­ing,’ pitcher says of fin­ish­ing five-year nat­u­ral­iza­tion process

Baltimore Sun - - ORIOLES - By Ed­uardo A. Encina eencina@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­dieInTheYard

BOS­TON — As Ubaldo Jimenez re­turned to the Ori­oles on Tues­day af­ter­noon af­ter a day away from the team, team­mates grav­i­tated to­ward his locker to of­fer con­grat­u­la­tory hugs and hand­shakes be­fore he could even put down his travel bag.

The Ori­oles right-han­der be­came an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen Mon­day, of­fi­cially com­plet­ing a nat­u­ral­iza­tion process sev­eral years in the mak­ing dur­ing a cer­e­mony in Mi­ami.

Jimenez, 32, was born in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, signed an in­ter­na­tional free-agent con­tract at 17 and came to the United States when he was a wide-eyed 19-yearold. Though he’s faced a rocky road in his three years in Bal­ti­more, Jimenez has been an Al­lS­tar, pitched in a World Se­ries and thrown a no-hit­ter. Roughly six years ago, Jimenez set his eyes on an­other goal: be­com­ing an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen.

“Like they say, this is the land of op­por­tu­nity,” Jimenez said. “It’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s a process you have to go through that takes a long time, and then when you fi­nally get it, it’s an amaz­ing feel­ing.”

The nat­u­ral­iza­tion process is metic­u­lous. Can­di­dates for cit­i­zen­ship must hold le­gal res­i­dence for at least five years be­fore ap­ply­ing and must pass a thor­ough re­view process. They must show mas­tery of U.S. his­tory and govern­ment and pro­fi­ciency in English.

“I’ve been part of this coun­try since I was 19 years old, and this coun­try has given methe op­por­tu­nity to be a bet­ter per­son, not only for me, but for my fam­ily,” Jimenez said. “I think even back in my coun­try, I’ve been able to help a lot of peo­ple … for the op­por­tu­nity this coun­try has given me. It’s some­thing you don’t have any doubt in your mind that you want to do this.”

Sev­eral Do­mini­can-born play­ers, in­clud­ing Bos­ton Red Sox slug­ger David Or­tiz, Los An­ge­les An­gels first base­man Al­bert Pu­jols and re­tired out­fielder Manny Ramirez, have gained U.S. cit­i­zen­ship through the nat­u­ral­iza­tion process.

“Even when I had a chance to play in the mi­nor leagues, you see the guys that spend a long time in the big leagues, they do that,” Jimenez said. “They do that for them­selves, for their fam­ily, for their coun­try, and in a way, they’re telling thanks to this coun­try for ev­ery­thing it’s done for them. And then it’s some­thing you put in your mind. Once you get a chance to do it, of course I’m go­ing to do it.”

As the Ori­oles left Detroit for Bos­ton on Sun­day, Jimenez hopped onto a flight to Mi­ami; his nat­u­ral­iza­tion process was com­pleted through the United States Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices of­fices in the city, where he’s lived for the past six years. Af­ter the nat­u­ral­iza­tion cer­e­mony Mon­day, he re­turned Tues­day to a Fen­way Park vis­it­ing club­house full of well-wish­ers, from play­ers to coaches and train­ers.

“It seems like they’re aware of ev­ery­thing you have to go through to be able to get this,” Jimenez said. “They know how big of a deal it is for me. They’re happy.”

Ori­oles man­ager Buck Showal­ter said see­ing Jimenez ob­tain U.S. cit­i­zen­ship was “one of the neater things that’s hap­pened this year.”

“That thing doesn’t hap­pen in two months,” Showal­ter said. “That’s five years. I know it means a lot to him and af­fects his fam­ily and a lot of dif­fer­ent things. He’s worked very hard and very dili­gently for this to hap­pen. It means a lot to him. Pretty proud of him. It’s a long process. I think a lot of peo­ple lose sight of that, and he was very dili­gent about it. They don’t care where you are or who you are and what­ever. You’ve got to go through that process, and he did it.”

Though he’s had his share of ups and downs on the mound since sign­ing a four-year, $52 mil­lion deal with the Ori­oles be­fore the 2014 sea­son — this year alone, he’s had a re­cent resur­gence af­ter los­ing his ro­ta­tion spot and be­ing buried in the bullpen — Jimenez has re­mained grounded and de­ter­mined to pull him­self through. He’s been rooted in his faith and his ded­i­ca­tion to his tight-knit fam­ily.

Thanks to a me­chan­i­cal ad­just­ment, Jimenez re­cently found his foot­ing on the mound. He will go into his start Fri­day with a 2.83 ERA in his past four out­ings, hav­ing held op­pos­ing bat­ters to a .160 av­er­age.

And this year, Jimenez be­gan his own fam­ily, get­ting mar­ried in the off­sea­son and cel­e­brat­ing the birth of his first child, a daugh­ter named Ji­menvi, in late July.

“It’s go­ing to af­fect his wife, his child, his fam­ily, a lot of things that help make his life bet­ter, we hope,” Showal­ter said. “But he’s very proud to be from the Do­mini­can Repub­lic. … It’s just some­thing he wanted to do and he got it done.”

UNITED STATES CIT­I­ZEN­SHIP AND IM­MI­GRA­TION SER­VICES

Ori­oles right-han­der Ubaldo Jimenez, born in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, takes the oath of cit­i­zen­ship at a cer­e­mony Mon­day in Mi­ami.

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