Acosta is my first book, and I wrote it first and foremost, to honor my brother Oscar Acosta, who was a well known Major League Baseball pitching coach for organizations such as the New York Yankees, the Chicago Cubs and the Texas Rangers. He had a somewhat rocky path to the majors, since he had a reputation of being tough with his players. He brought a cattle rancher’s sensibility to the playing field. And although his style rubbed owners and managers the wrong way, the pitchers appreciated him, because they knew he was helping them reach the potential that he saw in every one of them. Sadly, Oscar was killed in an automobile accident in 2006 while managing for the Yankees’ Gulf Coast League in the Dominican Republic, and he was greatly missed. ACOSTA is also about the family from which Oscar came.
My book is the Hispanic version of ROOTS. It’s about loyalty to family honoring your parents regardless of circumstances. My parents immigrated to the United States in 1950, so Oscar, my sister Carol and I are second generation Americans. The book talks about many life-changing moments in our family–my father’s long days working as a ranch hand, branding cattle, fencing farming–a life he envisioned his children would embrace. Later we faced my father’s shortcomings in life as a result of his involvement with unscrupulous men from Mexico.
ACOSTA is about my mother, the pillar of our family, a woman with backbone, faith devotion, and unending love for her children and husband. This book is also about her courageous battle with breast cancer. My mother held our family together and showed her children and husband the meaning of character, family, and loyalty. It’s a story of passion, undying love, it is also about my life with my husband Ralph Villegas, the challenges we faced together and by ourselves, living life to the fullest behind the backdrop of betrayal and abuse.
At the heart of this book, though, is hope and family strength. Prayer and spirituality have always guided us in our lives, and I think what people will come away with is a sense that being in touch with your spiritual side always makes overcoming challenges an easier prospect.
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born in Texas and lived in Elida, NM, which is a ranching community in rural New Mexico. My father didn’t think college was a proper place for girls and he didn’t allow me to go to college after high school. I met Leo, the father of my children, at a basketball game when I was a cheerleader in my Junior year. We married a month later after I graduated. Five years later, my daughter Leah Dawn was born. Three years later my son Brandon Scott completed my family. My background has been mostly in politics and government. I am the type of person who cannot sit back and watch abuse of the helpless or underprivileged, so I have to get involved (Dad always said about me, “Esta Flaca, en donde no se mete, se asoma.” (Translation: “This skinny one, where she does not look in, she steps in.”). For example, in1998, I went by myself on a fact finding trip to the state of Chiapas, Mexico to see why the Mexican Government was killing the helpless Mayan Indians, taking their land and forcing them to live under plastic tents in refugee camps that numbered 10,000. I accomplished what I set out to do and gave the report of my findings to Senator Pete Domenici and the State Department.
Perhaps my greatest accomplishment, besides raising my beautiful children, was the opportunity to serve on the 1984 Republican Platform that helped re-elect President Ronald Reagan. Senator Domenici gave up his seat on this committee so that I, at the age of 29, would help create the planks for the Platform our Presidents would run on. Who would have thought that I, the child of Mexican immigrants, would be up on that platform fighting for what I believed in? It was all so surreal and the fulfillment of the American Dream in so many ways. ACOSTA is my first book, and I am very excited to introduce my brother and my family to a wider audience.
What inspired you to write this book?
After my brother was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic in 2006, my desire was to have his story made into a movie because I wanted to honor his legacy.
It was also seeing my Mother’s deep wounds of losing her precious son that gave me the drive. In order to tell the story of my family, I knew I had to start from the beginning with my mom and dad’s life.
I was also motivated by some of the press that Oscar received while working as pitching coach for the Texas Rangers. Oscar helped recruit John Rocker who you may remember had a “rocky past” with the comments he made to the media. During his time as a pitcher for the Texas Rangers, Oscar and he developed a very strong rapport; Oscar saw a good arm and a repentant man in Rocker. And a more humbled John Rocker respected my brother.
At the time, there was a sports writer from Dallas who publicly ridiculed their positive relationship. This writer didn’t know my brother; he never understood what Oscar meant when he said “I have to be true to myself.” And he didn’t know that my brother would always seek the highest quality in a person. I am still determined that those critics, who didn’t take the opportunity to know Oscar, but sat back with their big bellies pounding out their image of my brother, will know the real story.
Both my father and Ralph were cut from the same cloth. They lived life to the fullest they were fearless and took challenges many would have shied away from. My late husband Ralph Villegas also came to the U.S. at the age of 11, as did my father at 16 years old. They both had a drive to make it in the United States and learn from Anglos, and they did to a certain extent–Ralph started his company and grew it to be one of largest owner- operated companies in New Mexico.
They both had a jealousy and controlling nature about them. In this book, I talk a lot about my own struggles with domestic abuse. I am hopeful that this book will spark a dialogue with other women and men who have the same question…Why did you stay? Why did you go back? And, why did you put up with it? Is there a solution, and how do you achieve it?
How did you choose the title?
When Oscar came home during the off season, baseball was one thing he didn’t want to talk about. He wanted to spend time with his family and talk about family things.
After my brother’s death, I researched every newspaper article, going back to when he was at Lubbock Christian College. What I found was that my brother was demanding and tough with his players. Such was my father’s way with Oscar. For example, the rookies he managed or coached were going to learn to be a man first and foremost. With that in place, he then molded them to Major League material. If they were in the Major League, he expected them to be men with accountability and play as Major Leaguers with no excuses.
He demanded loyalty and gave that loyalty in return. He was a true leader like General Patton and had his toughness too. And though he was tough on the field, Oscar also had a gentle side and a big heart just like Zapata, the Mexican general. Both of these men are remembered by just one name, and “ACOSTA” is the one name I chose.
I also mention in my book that at Oscar’s Memorial service in Portales, New Mexico, a father and his son, about the age of eleven, came to talk to me about their love and respect for Oscar. They followed Oscar’s career in baseball and knew him personally. The boy’s father had tears in his eyes when he told me that Oscar was a “man’s man,” and when his son was born he named him Acosta.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
I had the faith that God would open the doors for my book. Mom, my children and I were diligent in our petition to our Lord. At first, it was very difficult finding a publisher for this book, but eventually the manuscript was accepted by U.K.-based O Books, and the rest was easy. Of course, my mom, my children and I went to the sacred chapel at Chimayo to give thanks and honor our Lord that all would turn out well.
The whole process of writing the book was blessed. I was a little nervous in the beginning, but over the fourteen months it took to write ACOSTA, I felt like Oscar, my father and my late husband Ralph were all looking over my shoulder guiding me saying “Yole, you can do this!”
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
First off, this experience taught me that God is still a true and faithful God. Even though I know my mom to be the rock of our family, she is even more resilient, a courageous woman who has endured tragedy after tragedy in her life, yet her faith in God has not been shaken (Mom reminds me of Rose Kennedy who also had so many tragedies in her life, and like my mother, Mrs. Kennedy’s faith in God helped her endure such devastating losses).
And lastly, I learned a lot about myself writing this book. While I have always been something of a fighter for things I believe in, I realized how determined I am when I believe in something. It’s amazing all the turns my life has taken and that I have been able to work through them and stay true to myself and the values with which I was raised. Writing this book also taught me a great deal about my brother, who rarely shared the details of his professional life with the family. His discipline and generous heart touched so many lives, which has been an inspiration to my life. That’s why I decided that his story is one that needs to be shared with the world.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I am very happy with the end result of ACOSTA. As I mentioned, I felt so spiritually guided throughout the entire writing process, it was really a labor of love and I present my family’s story to the world without any regrets.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Because of my faith, I enjoy reading The Bible, and Bible Prophesy by Perry Stone and Jack Van Impe. They are very careful in how they interpret The Bible and they prophesy just like things are written in the scriptures. I also enjoy reading about current events in the United States and around the world.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
At present, I am not working on a new book. And while I don’t necessarily see myself with a long-term literary career that could change, especially since I really enjoyed the process and bringing my family to life on the pages of ACOSTA. Currently, I am more involved in getting the film version of the book made. The manuscript of ACOSTA made its way into the hands of Woodstock Film Festival Executive Director Meira Blaustein via a colleague of mine, and she is hard at work on the screenplay adaptation of the book. I am very excited about seeing this story make it to the big screen.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Just get in there and do it! Make sure that whatever you write, you truly believe in. And have your friends and family rooting for you on the side.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
The perfect reader is the person who has a passion for life—people who believe in themselves and care about humanity. Men and women, young and old, who want to get a glimpse into the Acosta family and their lives of strong traditional values, respect, loyalty and forgiveness. That includes lives lived working on a ranch, where the traditions of manhood, womanhood helped mold us.
Of course, the baseball fans, especially those who followed Oscar’s career, will want to read this book and will enjoy getting to know the man off of the field. I think a variety of female readers will want to read the book to gain insight into how some women find themselves in tough marriage situations. Overall, the book is such a picture of raw humanity, and I think that is what will draw readers’ attention. Also, in spite of the fact that it’s a nonfiction title, ACOSTA seems almost like a soap opera, and readers will not be able to put the book down.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
ACOSTA is available online at Amazon.com, Borders.com and Barnesandnoble.com. Readers should check with their local bookstore to see if they are carrying it. If not, they should ask them to stock it. For more information about the book and my biography, please visit www.o-books.com.