wasn't easy at first," Nieves says. "School here is a lot harder than
in Puerto Rico—and the weather is a lot colder. Once I had to pitch in
below-freezing weather. At times I got very homesick. But I've met a lot of
nice people, and I've experienced a whole new world."
become a leader at our school," Evans says. "He's our head senior dorm
monitor, and he's been the captain of our baseball, basketball and cross
country teams. What's interesting is that we had no idea of just how great an
athlete Juan was until he came here. We were amazed."
The question of
what choice he should make after May 25 absorbs Nieves. "I think all the
time about the pluses and minuses between college and the pros," he says.
"I wonder, for example, what will happen if I go to college and hurt my
arm. I'll never see that money again. Or if I go pro and get hurt, what will I
do after that? Sure, I'm in the driver's seat now. Fine. But there are so many
things that could turn my life around. I could end up in the back seat. My
future's a mystery."
Juan, who breeds and trains fighting cocks, and mother, Iris, a retired postal
worker, will arrive in Avon on May 17 to help guard Nieves' interests.
"Juan's future isn't something to play with," Iris has said. "I'm
not going to give my boy away for peanuts."
has been trying to build a "wall of separation" between Nieves and the
scouts. "Juan has a job to do at school academically, so we've told our
switchboard not to put any scouts' calls through to him," Evans says.
"Even so, some scouts have obtained the number to the pay phone in Juan's
In his small,
attic-dark, medieval-style dormitory room, Nieves ponders what lies ahead.
happiness should come first in life, but that's not the way the world is today,
especially in professional sports," he says. "The world revolves around
money, and in a few weeks that's what I'll be looking for. A lot of