Cincinnati Reds reliever Luis Cessa had a challenging journey from his native Mexico to the United States. He was only 16 years old when he signed with the New York Mets and left his hometown of Cordoba to polish his skills at the team’s Dominican academy.
As a teenager, Cessa worked alongside other Latino players from various countries, trying to build relationships and get comfortable with his new life. At times, he questioned his decision to leave home in pursuit of a major league dream.
“It was difficult. Different customs, food, everything changed,” Cessa recalled. “It was hard, but I think those things help you grow and needs to happen to get to the big leagues.”
Cessa believes in hard work paying off. He’s dedicated his life to baseball, refusing to take a day off along the way.
“He who works hard and persists has a good chance to make it and realize their dreams of playing baseball,” he said.
With this mindset, Cessa arrived in the U.S. at age 19 and pitched for the Mets’ Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2011. He began to feel like he was on his way to becoming a big leaguer.
After eight years meandering through the minor leagues -- and two trades -- Cessa was invited to spring training with the New York Yankees in 2016. He made the Opening Day roster and pitched two innings of relief against the Detroit Tigers in his MLB debut.
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, a Cuba native, became one of his early mentors.
“For me, he is one of the best closers in the history of baseball,” Cessa said about his longtime friend. “Seeing him work, his routine inspires me to do things right.”
Cessa has logged 155 career appearances, primarily out of the bullpen, and continued to improve. He logged a 5-2 record with a 2.51 ERA for the Yankees and Reds in 2021 and solidified his reputation as one of the most reliable and durable righty relievers in the game.
Amid the increasing Latino presence in the game, Cessa takes pride in being able to represent México. In his mind, Latinos give baseball a refreshing jolt of energy.
With the rise of Fernando Tatís Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ronald Acuña Jr. and so many young Latino stars, who can argue?