STEADY BROOK — As Eddy Lantigua drove his old, run-down car past all the nice houses on the way to the airport in the Dominican Republic, he told his passenger — Audrey Kilpatrick of Steady Brook — that maybe he would have a house like that one day.
That was two years ago as Kilpatrick ended another one of her yearly visits to the Caribbean island country where she had befriended Lantigua.
She got acquainted with Lantigua four years ago through a girl Kilpatrick had met during a visit to Puerto Plata. The girl said Lantigua had a car and could drive Kilpatrick around during her stay. Both the girl, who had three children, and Lantigua, who has four children, struck a chord with Kilpatrick. Both Dominicans struggled to find enough money to feed and care for their families every day.
Kilpatrick would help them out, buying them clothes and other things they needed while she was visiting. She also maintained contact with them by phone and email throughout the year after she would return home.
She sometimes sent money while back home in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“One time, when I asked Eddy if he had made any money that day, he told me he had not made one peso in 37 days, but today is not over yet,” said Kilpatrick of the extraordinary positive attitude Lantigua seemed to always have.
So, that day two years ago when Lantigua said he may some day own a much nicer home than he currently had, Kilpatrick asked him how that might be possible.
“July 2, 2013 might be my lucky day,” was his answer.
He then told her that was the day his son, Edinson, would be eligible to become an international free agent and could sign a contract to become a Major League Baseball prospect.
“I told him that it was going to happen because that day was also my birthday,” said Kilpatrick.
This spring, Kilpatrick decided not to go down south on vacation, opting instead for a ski trip to Western Canada with her husband, Keith. After discussing it with her husband, they decided to invite Lantigua to come visit them in Steady Brook. Kilpatrick made sure all of the paperwork needed for him to travel was completed and the arrangements were made. Lantigua arrived in western Newfoundland on July 13. Eleven days before that, just as he had hoped, his 16-year-old son officially became the property of a Major League Baseball team.
After discussions with eight teams, Edinson finally signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. According to MLB.com, the outfielder’s signing bonus was worth $275,000.
“The six-foot-one, 170-pound Lantigua has a tall, lanky frame with plenty of room to grow,” states the MLB.com article on his signing, published July 4. “His effortless swing should couple nicely with his growth. He has a strong arm and projects as a center fielder.”
As he soaked up the warm hospitality of the Kilpatricks and others he has met in western Newfoundland, Lantigua said he has not had time for the reality of his son’s bright future to sink in.
“The kind of life people live here is so different from the kind of life I will go back to in the Dominican Republic,” he said. “Baseball is the only way out, but it is very hard to do that.”
He realizes Edinson still has a long way to go before he becomes the professional baseball player he wants to be, but said his son works hard every day at becoming stronger and better.
Part of his son’s dream is to make life for the Lantigua family better. That improvement has already started to take shape.
Eddy Lantigua says he hopes to soon have a new house for his family and a better car. He also hopes to start his own little business, a sort of grocery store inside one of the hotels in Puerto Plata.
“I won’t make a lot of money, but at least it should create a steady cash flow for my family,” he said.
To see her friend from the Dominican Republic finally get a break in life brings a huge smile to Kilpatrick’s face.
“I am so happy for Eddy and Edinson, and to have Eddy here visiting us in the same month that Edinson signed makes it even greater,” she said. “I feel like they are part of my family and I am part of theirs now.”
Eddy has promised to return the goodwill Kilpatrick has shown his family. If Edinson ever does make it to the major leagues, he said the Kilpatricks will have front row seats with his family at his first game.