Martin Prado hadn’t met Ana Ribiero before Tuesday, but he felt connected by her story.
Both are from Venezuela — Prado from Maracay, Ribiero from Caracas.
Both grew up in single-family households.
And both moved to the United States with the opportunity to live the American Dream — Prado with his professional baseball career that is approaching 20 years (14 in MLB), Ribiero as she looks toward a career in criminal justice after graduating from Florida International University.
So it was fitting that Prado was the one to surprise Ribeiro, 20, as the first recipient of the Miami Marlins First Generation Scholarship Endowment at FIU.
“It was emotional,” Prado said. “I never met her before. I just read her story. I just read everything she’s done already to get where she is right now — and I see myself in a different way. People believe and people think that when baseball players get to the big leagues, they’re famous and you have everything. It’s not like that. There’s a stage in your career that you have to go through and overcome difficulties. She did that. I think she has a long way to go, but her mind is straight up.
“She knows what she wants. She wants to be someone in life.”
The program, according to a Marlins news release, “provides financial support to qualified undergraduate FIU students who are the first in their families to work toward a college degree.”
“It’s very special,” said Bridgette Cram, FIU’s assistant vice president for academic and student affairs. “These are students who may not have that support system at home to rely on to give them that extra support to help cover tuition or books. To help them have one less thing to worry about is how this scholarship really makes a difference.”
The announcement came as a surprise to Ribiero, a junior majoring in psychology and minoring in criminal justice. When she arrived at FIU’s Ernest R. Graham University Center, she thought she was going in for a final interview for the scholarship.
Instead, she was greeted by Prado, who gave a three-minute speech that ended with him and the Marlins Foundation presenting her with with a $2,550 check.
“Everybody just wants to make it,” Ribeiro said. “Everybody just wants to finish college. This is going to help me do all of that.”
Ribeiro was born in Venezuela and moved to the United States when she was 3 and grew up in Weston. Her father died when she was 4, so her mom, grandmother and sister raised her.
“They supported everything I ever wanted,” Ribeiro said. “I’m here because of them.”
Prado, who signed with the Marlins in 2015 and has been one of the elder statesmen on Miami’s roster the past five years, understands that part of life.
He and his four siblings were raised solely by their mom, Irma Prado. At 17, he signed with the Atlanta Braves and played two years in their Dominican program before moving to the United State in 2003 to be part of the Braves’ Gulf Coast League affiliate. He made his MLB debut four years later. He’s finishing up Year 14 in the big leagues this month.
But through it all, he hasn’t lost his roots. He still knows how important it is to give back to the community.
Tuesday was the latest example.
“I’m just hoping,” Prado said, “that I put the message out there for the young players in the Marlins organization to do something in the future. ... Let people know that you care about them.”