From Cuba to MN: The deep bond between Tony Oliva and Nachito Herrera

How a baseball Hall-of-Famer and Grammy-winning pianist turned into speedy buddies.

ST PAUL, Minn. — On Saturday night time, Nachito Herrera’s world-renowned Cuban jazz track will fill the Halls of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, and he will have a Hall-of-Fame fan cheering him on.

“He’s numero uno,” mentioned Tony Oliva, the previous Minnesota Twins outfielder who used to be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame this summer time.

Oliva used to be already a Twins legend by the point he first heard Herrera play in Minnesota twenty years in the past, however even then, sport known sport.

“When I met him, he was a superstar,” Oliva mentioned.

Herrera, who rose to reputation in his local Cuba on the age of 12, started traveling the arena as a youngster and used to be already an acclaimed pianist by the point he landed in Minnesota in 2001 to function musical director and orchestra conductor for a play at St. Paul’s History Theater.

Despite all of that early luck, Herrera says he quickly discovered himself feeling remoted.

“You feel alone because you don’t have your family; you don’t speak the language. When I decided to establish myself in 2001, I didn’t speak English at all,” Herrera mentioned. 

It’s a sense Oliva knew all too smartly. Despite changing into an immediate famous person at the box after signing with the Twins in 1961, he spent years remoted from his circle of relatives, buddies and nation.

“I was by myself,” Oliva mentioned. “It’s a very tough time when you come here from a different country, and you come, especially to Minnesota, because there weren’t many Spanish speakers and I didn’t speak one word of English.”

Maybe that is why, from the day they first met, they have not stopped speaking.

“That first day, we decided to have lunch in a restaurant,” Herrera mentioned. “And that restaurant pretty much had to call the cops, the police, to kick us out of there, because it was about 6 p.m. and we were still talking in the restaurant.”

Though separated in age through some 30 years, they have got cheered each and every different on ever since, and as their roots — and households — in Minnesota have grown, so has their bond.

Herrera: “We are like family right now. It is impossible for us to spend a week or two weeks without giving a call and making a plan to get together.” 

Erdahl: “You are both world-class players. You could have settled anywhere. Why Minnesota?”

Oliva: “When you get here to Minnesota, it’s different. It’s a privilege. It’s a privilege to live here.”

Herrera: “Why not Minnesota?”

Oliva: “The weather was bad, but the people was very warm.”

Herrera: “That is true. That warm friendship from Minnesotans gave me the possibility of forgetting about, in a funny way, how cold Minnesota gets in the wintertime.”

And as a thanks for the entire alternatives they discovered right here, they have got each taken each alternative to percentage the heat in their local Cuba with all people.

Herrera’s upcoming display is simply the newest instance. He will take the Ordway level with the Havana Jazz All Stars to carry out a unique live performance referred to as “Cuba Live!” 

“My people deserve respect, and so how I keep respecting my people is to try to be a better person, to try to represent that country that gave you a lot when you needed,” Herrera mentioned. “That’s exactly why, any single time I go anywhere in the world, I just take that very serious. Don’t forget where you come from.”

If you are fascinated with becoming a member of Tony Oliva and the remainder of Herrera’s fanatics for “Cuba Live” tickets are nonetheless to be had in the course of the Ordway web page

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