Most kids growing up in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, have the same dream: to play shortstop for a major-league team. Orioles second baseman Manny Alexander was one of them.
"I watched Tony Fernandez play and make it to the major leagues," said Alexander, 24. "I always wanted to play shortstop since then. I thought maybe one day I can be like him."
Alexander's story is not unique. Kids in San Pedro de Macoris (population 66,000) have had their choices of hometown shortstops to admire.
Jose Offerman, Mariano Duncan, Manuel Lee and Alfredo Griffin all started playing baseball on the fields of San Pedro de Macoris. That's why baseball is not just the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic, but just about the only sport.
"We all play baseball and some basketball, but baseball is the sport," Alexander said. "There's no soccer or football like they play here. The reason is that so many play professional baseball from here. Everyone sees the good car and nice house, and kids think that maybe one day they can be like him, too."
Alexander, who started playing baseball at the age of 7, heard kids talking about those dreams when he played Little League. He also remembers the long line to play shortstop in a game.
"You have to let everyone play an inning at shortstop because everyone can and wants to play shortstop," Alexander said. "Everyone has such good hands. I think everyone wants to be like Manny Lee and Tony Fernandez. No one wants to pitch and catch. It's all about playing shortstop."
And the Alexander family knows about playing shortstop. Manny has five older and five younger brothers. Two of the younger brothers, Kenny and Enrique, are promising shortstop prospects the Dominican Republic.
Like kids in the United States, Alexander and his brothers followed the major-league game through TV broadcasts, radio and newspapers.
When Alexander returns home, kids approach him with questions, one of them being particularly popular.
"They always ask why I am moving to second base," Alexander said. "They say, you have such good hands and you should be playing short. The little kids don't understand that it's the chance to play is why I'm playing second."
Alexander returns home often and plays for Estrellas during the winter.
And he plays shortstop.