For a man who spends half of each game squatting behind the plate, Yorvit Torrealba had a hard time feeling at home in Colorado, so far from his native Venezuela. The mountains are reminiscent of his homeland, but Torrealba is a beachcomber, not a mountain man. More importantly, he's a family man, and was long way from the ones he loves.Hailing from just outside Caracas, Torrealba had a connection to the Rockies before he signed a pro contract. Andres Galarraga was an original Blake Street Bomber when Torrealba was a 15-year-old kid from the Big Cat's home town, dreaming of the big leagues. Interestingly, Galarraga was with the Giants when Torrealba walked into the clubhouse for his Major League debut with San Francisco, and the Big Cat was the first person to greet him in the big leagues.
"Everybody wanted to be Galarraga, or [Omar] Vizquel," Torrealba said of the impact those players had on the kids of Caracas. "Everybody always liked Big Cat, and he started putting up some numbers here [with the Rockies] and with the Braves. Everybody wanted to hit a home run like Galarraga. He was the top hero."These days, it's Torrealba who has been a hero on Blake Street, consistently coming through in the clutch, hitting key homers in the Wild Card tiebreaker and Game 3 of the NLCS. But his tenure as a backup catcher in San Francisco included a nightmarish summer in '03.
In June of that year, his wife, Milangela, was diagnosed with colon cancer, and the two were tested beyond comprehension having to deal with her condition while so far removed from their family and friends in Caracas. Baseball seemed irrelevant to Torrealba, as he tried to care for his wife and son, Yorvit Eduardo.The summer only got worse when a grandmother he was especially close to passed away while the Giants were in Denver. "It was hard," Torrealba said of the loss of his grandmother, "because she was really big in my life. She always found a way to say something to make me feel better." Eventually, Torrealba and his wife showed their resilience. Milangela's cancer is in remission, and Torrealba is finally feeling at home with a starting job in Colorado. "My wife has been much better for a while now," Torrealba said. "She's doing great. Everything is fine, thank God."
And with the Rockies headed to the World Series, the game that challenged Torrealba by taking him so far from his family is drawing them all together as they converge on Coors Field to cheer on their own hero from home.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.